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Do YOU celebrate?

Do YOU celebrate?

Night before last, I went to a funny, holiday-themed play at a community theater with a group of friends.  On the way home, I learned that two of the women with us were turning 80 within a few days of each other at the end/beginning of the year.  They are both vibrant, engaged, and living real lives.  I had to admit I was surprised.  (We have the stereotypes on this so wrong as a society!)

What was more interesting though was how they were seeing the milestone.  The difference between the two of them could not have been more dramatic.  One was going to San Diego (from the Seattle area) for two weeks of assorted celebrating.  She was excited about the coming decade and ready for it to be her “best decade” just as her grandmother had admitted of her 70’s a generation before.

The other was dreading it.

They are both virtually the same age.  Are they going to have the same quality of life?

The “dreader” saw the need to redirect herself as we finished the ride, which is the great news in this.  But what about the ones who don’t get the innoculation of someone else’s happier approach?

You’re gonna turn 80 either way (at least if you are lucky enough to get that far).  Seeing the pluses is a whole lot more fun.  And ignoring the ridiculously inaccurate set of expectations we are bombarded with from the culture is critical.

I always make a big deal over the “zero” birthdays.  It’s my excuse to do something particularly grand and/or self-loving when they are mine.  I also love to mark 75 for women friends.  Party, fresh flower crown, BIG deal fun.

But celebrating doesn’t have to be reserved for certain birthdays.   There are unique milestones that also warrant some festivity.  (At the moment, I am looking forward to the last day of my online dating subscription….)

What does celebrating accomplish?  At its very core, a celebration says “There are things going on in  my life.  I have completed something important.  And I am happy about that.”

It also says “Life is good!”

But the most important thing it says is “I am not done yet!”  Oh yeah.  I will celebrate that again and again and again.

What We’re Trying to Do Here

What We’re Trying to Do Here

PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION!!

In the past, allowing comments on these blog posts turned into a marathon effort at removing unwanted stuff that had nothing to do with the good conversation I was trying to encourage, placed by spambots because “they could.”  So my web guy and I reluctantly closed comments to stay ahead of all that.  Now, there ‘s a better way to deal with that scourge, but it involves a small step from you.

  • The intent of these posts is to encourage sincere conversation about the challenges of living this stage of life well and to problem solve regarding that.  That’s all.

  • Comments will be reviewed before publication.  The focus is on providing a full range of opionions and ideas, but we do not tolerate fake stuff, incendiary garbage that’s hurtful, harmful, or just plain mean, and useless ranting.  This needs to be a civil conversation. (True all the time, but insisted upon here….) Differing opinions are great, but no sniping or snarkiness.

  • If you just want to “lurk” (not provide a comment) that’s okay, but it’s more satisfying to have a voice.

  • This site is not focused on making money or “building a platform.”  It’s to get us talking about what this stage of life is like and what we’ve learned collectively about doing it well.

  • If, in the future, there are other ways to be involved in wherever this goes, you’ll be invited via posts here to do that when the time comes.

  • Please do comment.  We all have different experiences, perspectives, and issues.  We can learn so much by talking with each other.

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

This is a repost of what I said on Nov. 21, 2012.  It’s still on target, and I could see no reason to rewrite it.  Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it.

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And thanks for the not so sunny things in life….

And now, for a non-political, non-denominational nod to the value of gratitude…

Thanksgiving Day is upon us–at least for those of us who live in the United States.  What Mom or Dad or Grandma used to say is true.  We do have a lot to be thankful for. Even when things aren’t going so very well at all, a lot of stuff is going right that we often don’t take the time to acknowledge.

This year I’m being thankful for the very act of being thankful.  It’s like a wonder drug.  When I take the time to look at all the good things in my life and utter a prayer of gratitude, I raise my happiness index into the ozone.  Yep.  Be thankful; be happy.

So what am I thankful for this soggy Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving?

I’m thankful for where I live–in a warm house in a place that hasn’t been ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires or horrendous snow storms.  But I’m also thankful that I live in a culture that helps when those bad things happen.  And that gets itself up, dusts itself off, and gets on with getting back on its collective feet when it does.  Generosity and grit build a pretty solid community, and I am lucky indeed to be in a country like that.

I am thankful for what I get to do with my time.  I love what I do.  It doesn’t always go the way I want, but it’s the right path and I can feel that to the bottom of my soul.  But I’m also thankful for the years (yes, years!) that I’ve spent wandering around in the emotional dark trying to figure it out.  That painful time was an important step in assuring that where I walk so happily now is solid ground.  I’m also thankful that I already know I will likely circle back around through that trying territory again at some point in the future.  That is okay–because the trip will come with reconfirmation of all I value and how to best use my time in this life.

I’m thankful for family and friends.    Loving and being loved is the glue of a good life.  But I’m also thankful for the times I’ve been in that space of “alone.”  Connection keeps my world warm, but sometimes, I need a splash of solitary “cold water” to help me get back on track with how I am treating the people in my life–and myself.

I am thankful for sunshine, blue skies, lovely warm weather, and the chance to hike high in the mountains of this beautiful place I’m blessed to live when the weather allows.  But I am also grateful for these truncated days of late fall when it’s dark before dinner and the rain just keeps coming.  The short days remind me that one of the greatest gifts of being human is the need to believe when things are dark and slow.  We live “not knowing” and have to learn to trust that the sun will bring the long days back, that all is well, and that we can get through the hard times if we just keep going.

Yes, I am thankful.  And that makes me happier than anything else I can think of to do.  An attitude of gratitude cuts a clear path to enjoying life–regardless of whether what’s coming down at the moment is wonderful or not-so-grand.

As you prep the turkey or sit down to the feast, wind your way to Grandmother’s house in bumper to bumper traffic or wait in line for TSA at the airport, give thanks.  And be thankful most especially for the times and things in your life that don’t seem like pluses.  They’re there for a reason, and the reason is good.  You  just have to understand it.

To those of you with an official holiday for giving thanks in the offing, Happy Thanksgiving!  To those of you who don’t have it on your calendar, give thanks anyway.  It will make you happy.  (And then you have one more thing to give thanks for.)

 

Giving Up versus Letting Go

Giving Up versus Letting Go

I lost a dear friend last week.  She’d gotten weaker and weaker after undergoing one planned then one emergency open-heart surgery in a matter of days.  Her friends are stunned.  Her family is in shock.  This was not the way it was supposed to go.  She was intrepid.  She was stubborn.  She was the one who seemed like she could go on forever.  At 80, she could still rise from a full squat to her feet without touching anything, for god’s sake.

And yet, there came a time when all that she was wasn’t enough.  A time to admit she was too tired to keep fighting to get her life back.

Assessing “what went wrong” is useless.  But this big decision has me looking at all the little decisions we make, where we decide that whatever we have been fighting for is not going to happen. And that made me ask “Is there a difference between letting go and giving up?”

It seems there is.  Letting go is about surrendering control.  Giving up is about surrendering everything.  And there is a time for each.

Letting go clears the way for what’s next.  By no longer focusing on the job you had to have or trying to force real love into a romance that doesn’t come close, you clear the space you need for something much better to come into your life.  Accepting that the real answer is beyond something you can make happen opens up possibilities you can’t even imagine.  You’re betting on a future that’s better than you can create on your own. If you’re authentic with it, what comes next will serve you far better than whatever it is you let go of.

Giving up stops at now.  Giving up says “No more.  I am done with this.”

Eventually we will all get to “giving up.”  But let’s not do it prematurely–when we’re going to go on living despite what we are relinquishing.  When things seem hopeless, it’s the time to surrender, yes.  To wait in the deep velvet fog of  uncertainty for “what’s coming next.”  To trust that it will be what you need.  To open yourself to going beyond your own fences so you can recognize it when it arrives.  It is the time to let go.

But don’t give up when letting go is an option.  Don’t give up on ever having a happy life just because today was close to unbearable.  Accept that what you need may simply be beyond your own thinking–not absent entirely.  Let go and wait for what comes next.

Surrender is part of living life to the max. It resonates with hope and potential. Giving up is the very last resort. Save that for the authentic end.

Thanks for the lesson, Linda.

The Gun Control “Debate”

The Gun Control “Debate”

I’m usually apolitical and believe strongly in letting people be who they are.  Of live and let live.  Of you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.  I believe in the Constitution.  That’s not enough on this.

The United States of America has become a dangerous place to live.  Yesterday, my not-so-big-town paper reported the death of a grandmother who was killed in her bathroom—the victim of a drive-by shooting where the bullets were meant for someone else.  I wish I could say this was an unusual article.  It’s not—for my town, for the country in general.

Teenage gang members shoot each other over being “disrespected.”  Spurned lovers shoot their former girlfriends.  Preschoolers shoot each other because they think they are playing with a toy.  Veterans facing the difficult task of picking up a “normal” life after the horrors of war use a gun as a quick way to end their pain.  And then, of course, there are the mass shootings where “motive” is elusive but the death toll is very real.

A recent online article by Business Insider claimed that the likelihood of dying from gun violence is 1 in 315, and that’s not counting the suicides and accidents.  In 2015, nearly 14,000 people were killed by firearms assaults in this country.  That would be the whole population of the town I grew up in.

In the US, more people die from being shot by others than die riding in a van, truck, or car. And the mass shootings?  “In 2015, some 333 mass shootings left 367 people dead and 1,328 injured. The statistics rose in 2016 to 383 mass shootings, 456 deaths, and 1,537 injuries. In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings that led to 437 deaths and 1,802 injuries.” (From the same article.)

We have to do better.

Gun rights advocates rally around the Second Amendment as if it were the only thing written in the Constitution.  Let’s put it in perspective.  The first written statement in our birth as a nation is the Declaration of Independence.  It does not mention the right to own guns, but it does state that all have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The very first words in the Constitution itself state its purpose is to “… to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure the domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,  promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  The Constitution was ratified in 1788.  The Second Amendment was not added until 1791 as part of a cluster of ten clarifications.  Clearly, the right to own guns was not the most important thing.  The right to live in peace is far more central.  Losing this many Americans to gun violence every year is NOT peaceful.

What’s even more absurd is that gun control isn’t about deleting the Second Amendment itself.  The push if for sensible gun control.  How can any sane person argue with that idea?

Arming teachers will not solve this problem.  Who do you arm to prevent a suicide that was too easy because there was a gun on the premises?  Who do you arm to keep the four-year old from shooting his six year old sister when he finds a loaded gun under the seat of the car?  Who do you arm to help that grandmother killed in her bathroom?  Getting more guns out there isn’t the answer.

There will always be resistance to changes needed for the common good from those who are going to lose something.  The farmers who benefitted from DDT…  The smokers who now have to go out of the building (and stand in the rain or snow) to pollute their lungs…  But the “rights” of a few should not override the legitimate needs of the many.  If the NRA and all gun advocates were really intent on the good of the country–as they want us to believe they are, they would be at the table trying to solve the problem, not in trenches lobbing grenades at those who recognize the need to do it.  (And to those who despicably altered photos to make “news” about the kids who’ve had the courage to stand up and start these dominoes falling, there are no words to describe how low you have stooped.)

Cowardice is cumulative and compounds.  When our elected officials were cowed by the gun rights lobby and let the ban on assault weapons expire in 2004, it started a downward spiral that has expanded for 15 years.  Now those same leaders are too timid to object when the President of the United States refuses to call out an international thug.  They turn a blind eye to that same President’s cyberbullying and moral turpitude. They can’t find a way to get work done on any front because cowards are afraid of anyone who is not just like them.  They hide in their bunkers and pretend to be strong by yelling at each other instead of having the courage to approach those who are different to work together.

We are far more than this as a nation.  And we have been given the chance to start over–by kids.  We don’t have to accept “it’s complicated” as an excuse for inaction.  So what if it’s complicated.  It still needs to be fixed.  Gun ownership is just like owning anything else.  You can’t do whatever you want if you own a house. You’re subject to requirements and restrictions if you own a car.  Such limits are for the greater good.  Common sense gun control is no different.

Every one of us needs to stand up now and insist that this be done.  Yes, we can vote differently next fall, but we can also speak up now.  Insist that your elected officials come around on this–not all of them are going to be up for reelection.  It’s time to fix this.  Way past time.

Note:  The Business Insider article can be found at

http://www.businessinsider.com/mass-shooting-gun-statistics-2018-2.

And if you’re wondering, Business Insider is rated as politically “center” by AllSides.

 

As We Change Presidents…..

As We Change Presidents…..

It’s just a new President.  Really.  The Constitution is still in place.  The Congress is still there.  (I was going to say “functioning”, but that would be a new development of late.)  The Judiciary branch is still doing its thing.  We have just changed one piece of this amazing puzzle of a democracy that has worked so well for over 200 years.  The sky is not falling.  Really.  It may be rattling a bit with the change in how the wind is blowing, but it’s not falling.

The angst with this particular election outcome is unique.  It’s as if the whole country has forgotten that one party wins and the other loses every time we do this.  To the “victors” each time comes the hopes that they are going to get things exactly as they want.  To the “defeated” comes the frustrating truth that they will have to wait.  And that’s never the way it turns out.  Neither party ever gets  things exactly as they wanted!  Because we are all part of this.  Not just the “winners.”

It’s as if people are assuming the President is an absolute ruler who does whatever he wants and has the right and the role to change whatever he chooses.  Donald Trump may even believe that.  It doesn’t matter.  That’s not the way we roll as the United States of America.

This is about ALL of us doing what we can to make this country a place we can all live together–fairly and at peace with each other.

If you want a great country, add some effort of your own.  Little easy things can help a lot.  Donald Trump may say he is going to Make America Great Again.  But that ain’t gonna happen if it’s just him trying to pull it off.  Particularly if what he thinks would be “great” isn’t what the rest of us have in mind.

If you refuse to do anything to improve the situation because you hate Donald Trump, you’re missing the point:  It’s not his country!  It belongs to all of us.  Refusing to make things better because he is part of the picture makes about as much sense as refusing to plant a garden because you don’t want to eat the peas you spouse always plants.  SAVOR THE REST!

Martha Beck once wrote: “The happier you are, the more joyful the whole world becomes.”  At a minimum, do something to generate joy.  In  your loved ones.  In  yourself.  In the people you meet while waiting in line for your coffee.  We can start to turn this around just by being nice to people every time we can.

We do not need to let this become a war.  If we become happy enough, Donald Trump will be superfluous.  If he truly is about “making America great again” even he would be happy with that.

Come on!  Smile at somebody!

 

The ONE THING None of Us Should Eat

The ONE THING None of Us Should Eat

Okay, okay, you’re tired of all the do’s and don’ts about what to eat.  One week coffee is bad for you, the next “they” are saying two cups a day will help avoid dementia.  Red wine is good…but not too much…or maybe only on Sundays.  And what’s the deal with kale? Or whatever. All this advice leads us to consume large quantities of the one thing we really do not need to be eating: FEAR.

There’s a lot of “information” out there about how eating this will stave off some awful illness and about how eating that other thing will trigger something terrible. Such advice is everywhere and often in contradiction to other advice.  So you can’t do all of it (and who in the world really wants to?)  Still, “they” say this is important.  We want to be safe, to avoid the horrible “maybe” mentioned.  So instead of acting on our own behalf, we worry.  Worry is just another word for being afraid (passively).  Have another helping of fear, my dear!

Our current culture is very good at fretting about damn near everything. What if I take that job, and then there’s a lay-off?  What if I say the wrong thing, and I get a reputation for being policially incorrect?  What if the incoming Presidential adminstration is as terrible as my favorite news site says it will be?  Oh so much can go wrong.

And it may.  But that’s not the biggest problem here.  When we take this stuff in and let it define how we live, life becomes a prison cell.  There will always be something dangerous that might hurt us.  Trying to avoid all of it is like trying to avoid breathing nitrogen–which is a normal and major component of air–but not what we need to live on.  We don’t use the nitrogen but it doesn’t harm us if we are doing the natural thing–breathing it back out.  Same deal with fear.  It’s out there, and we need to notice it. Then the natural thing is to let it go. When we worry instead, we hold it.  And it shackles and weakens us.

Life is dangerous.  Standing there paralyzed with fear is not going to change that. All it does is remove the chance to live happy and free.

It’s not just the nutrition experts  force-feeding us this bad stuff.  We get far more information about the “dangers” inherent in being alive than has ever been the case before.  We have access to massive amounts of information from a wide array of sources on devices we can use 24/7.  The message of “Be afraid” comes through loud and clear–and often.

Even worse, those who want us as potential customers–for them or their advertisers– will hype that “news” so it becomes even more terrifying.  This is NOT good for any one of us.  (It may, however, be very good for business.)

And it’s not the natural way for us to feel fear either.  When there is a real and present danger, fear is an ally.  Fight or flight–DO something.  All this “informational fear” isn’t like that.  When we are encouraged to be afraid of things that might happen, we move to a situation that denies any chance to effectively eliminate the fear by acting on it.  The possible terrible thing has not happened.  All you can do is worry that it might. We take the fear in and hold it.  Some day we may learn that doing that is the leading cause of heart attacks…  Fear generates stress.  We know stress messes us up a lot physically.

So, instead of actually eating and holding all that fear, we might be better off with something like the following:

  • Avoid clicking on all the sensationalized headlines about whatever thing to avoid, remove, etc.
  • Ask yourself if whatever advice you just read feels right to you.  Intuition is one of the best fear interceptors going.
  • Can you reasonably mitigate what they have said might go wrong?  If so, do that. If not, FORGET ABOUT IT.

Repeat after me: I will not eat fear.

Well…THAT didn’t work….

Well…THAT didn’t work….

My hope with switching to the author website, marylloydwriter.com was to give myself room to address whatever topic made sense at the moment.  However, an interesting peculiarity developed that made it difficult to post anything at all:  When writing fiction, it’s important to keep the voice of the story and the characters at the forefront. Blogging in my own voice messed that up.

I also realized that between the archived blog posts of The Silver Mine and the content dense www.mining-silver.com website, this is a better site to continue.  So let’s do that.

To get on with that approach, I just need to give myself permission to write whatever I want here.  (I was the only one making up rules in the first place!)  Thank you for your patience.

I hope you enjoy these new variations on my thought soup.

Where Did She Go?

Where Did She Go?

This stretch has been the first time in over six years where I haven’t posted to The Silver Mine weekly.  I had to let it go to test whether it belongs in my updated life.  I miss posting.  But it’s time to let go of the emphasis on retirement related topics.

That was an important set if issues to address when I started focusing on them in 2006.  Now, there are many resources and lots of capable voices advocating for making this stage of life more than a matter of waiting around for the trip to the funeral home.

When I got fired up about how badly we were “doing retirement,” my path had been toward life as a fiction writer.  I’d been concentrating on screenplays at that time, but now I want to go back to my first love–writing novels.

As a first step on this new version of that journey, I’ve released my first novel, Widow Boy–a historical thriller about a woman who finds justice for her murdered husband in the gold rush town of Cripple Creek by masquerading as a boy.  It’s a fast read with a gentle touch to the history and technology of Colorado gold mining in the 1890’s.  I started the story 20 years ago.  (Luckily, research for a historical novel doesn’t need to be updated if you don’t get on with publishing it right away….)  I have worked through it with two different critique groups over long periods and am proud of the quality that’s resulted.  I sincerely believe it’s a great read.

It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you want to read it but can’t afford either of those, e-mail me (mary@mining-silver.com) and I’ll let you know when there’s a “free day” for the Kindle version–which you can read on your computer if you don’t have an e-reader.

If you do read the book, I have a favor to ask.  Reader reviews are a critical piece of getting the visibility a book needs to succeed.  So please do a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Or tell your friends.  Or recommend it to your book club.  Or give it as a gift.  We find the best reads by word of mouth and I’d like to be part of your communication chain if you like this one.  Thanks.

I am also working on a new website that will give me greater freedom to write on whatever topic inspires me.  That’s where I will be posting in the future.  This is the 299th post on The Silver Mine.  The 300th–and last–one will provide the link to that site once it’s live.

Thanks for reading The Silver Mine, especially to those who did so regularly.   Being read is the greatest reward for a writer, and I appreciate your support.

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Mary Lloyd is a writer and former retirement expert (and natural gas industry executive, statistics instructor, stay-at-home-mom, crutch maker, etc.)  Her first novel, Widow Boy, was released on Amazon on Sept. 12, 2014.  She also wrote Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love

 

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

It’s time to admit something important. At some point, someone is going to have to deal with your “stuff”. We don’t seem to be aware of this as we keep adding belongings.  Clutter is just a fact of life, right?

We keep stuff for all kinds of reasons–  “I might need it…”  “It was Grandma’s…” “I might decide to go back into that…”  But the ongoing accumulation of “things” is a slow motion disaster.  A few weeks ago, a woman in Connecticut was killed when the floor of her house collapsed—because of the weight of the stuff she had on it.  They didn’t find her until two days later; the volume was so massive that it looked like the floor was still there when the police checked initially.

That’s an extreme case, but we’re all affected by “stuff.” If you haven’t had to deal with someone else’s after they’ve died, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. But here’s the deal. If you can’t face dealing with it, how can someone else—who knows a whole lot less about it–manage to do it after you’re gone?

My family just went through this. Six siblings plus a dear and unflinching sister-in-law hauled load after load out of my youngest brother’s 900-square-foot home for five full days. We got rid of over 100 cubic yards of “stuff.” Don’t naively assume it was just a case of walking it to the dumpster again and again either. Landfills have rules these days. You must dispose of electronics, assorted batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, oil-based paint, other hazardous materials, etc. in very specific ways—or face a fine. There’s a whole different routine for latex paint. Plus, if those doing the disposing have half a conscience about environmental stewardship, there will be trips to the local food bank, Goodwill or a similar second-hand store, and perhaps the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to donate appropriate “stuff.” And there will be lots of trips to the recycle center.

Accumulated “stuff” is not the benign, minor flaw we want to believe it is. Letting stuff you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t care about pile up leaves less space, resources, and time for what could bring you joy now. Holding onto too many things from the past means you don’t have faith in the present–or the future. It’s also a waste of money if you’re insuring, maintaining, paying for space to keep, and otherwise lavishing resources on all that “stuff.”

My loved one didn’t set out to leave a huge mess for the rest of us to clean up. He felt he needed everything he acquired. That’s how we usually amass stuff…a teeny bit at a time, time after time. But “stuff” doesn’t go away on its own. Somebody is going to have to deal with it eventually.

All six of us siblings came home vowing “I’m not going to do that to anybody!” so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do make getting rid of my “stuff” less of a burden when I depart. Everyone’s list will be unique, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Clean out the file drawers! Going through files is huge time sink for next of kin, and I can find most of what I’m keeping online if I do need it.
2. Make sure my kids really want what I’m keeping for them.
3. Whenever I learn someone needs what I’ve discovered I have (and don’t need), give it to them.
4. Mark the contents of boxes I do keep. Include a “Get rid of after ___” date to avoid going through boxes again myself when I can.
5. Donate to the food bank from my pantry. (This gets food I bought for a unique reason and then didn’t use onto someone’s plate rather than sitting on my pantry shelf until it expires.)
6. Dispose of the old paint immediately when I repaint. (But do keep the new paint for repairs.)
7. Be honest with stuff I get as gifts. If I’m not going to use it, return it, donate it, or regift it.
8. Remove anything I haven’t worn in the last year from my closet. Donate what I’m willing to part with. Put the rest in a separate stack. If I don’t wear it in another 12 months, donate it then.
9. Go through my bookshelves quarterly. Pass on anything I don’t expect to read again.
10. Leave notes for my loved ones about what’s what and how to get rid of it.

I want to do this right. From what I’ve seen lately, it’s a really good way to say “I love you.”