PsyD., O.P. Living my best life now, "mid-life". I hope the stories I share resonate with Readers, regardless of chronological age. My perspective is that, the more we travel down the road, the more beautiful and resilient we become. Life can be painful, but it is a process that burnishes our strength, and expands our capacity to love -- starting with ourselves. Being able to smile and laugh ( especially at my own foolishness!) is essential to my well-being. I try - when I can - to infuse my stories with hopeful, humorous anecdotes. Enjoy. I'm thinking of you...

Organizational Psychology consultants and coaches don’t have an exclusive ‘lock’ on what makes individuals and groups successful in a work setting. OPs learn and train in a variety of disciplines, including systems theory and the huge and complex field of individual and group psychology. Their conclusions and ultimate practices are evidence-based:  what appears to be effective, according to research and evaluation.

courtesy, wilsonquarterly.com

The concerns of most companies still revolve around The Bottom Line (profits), incorporating emergent needs such as  sustainability and global reach into the mix. Consultants and coaches (those who’re formally trained, by the way, not the Life Coach you might see advertising on YouTube) can analyze and create detailed recommendations relative to every aspect of an organization’s goals. But the human psychology behind success remains, at its core, really pretty simple. The research is clear:  people who are Happy generally feel and experience ‘success’ in their pursuits (personal or work related).  But people who may think of themselves as ‘successful’, or who may be regarded as such by others, are not always Happy. Readers may be thinking, Who Cares? Stay with me…

courtesy, isstockphoto

The need to feel Happy is a fundamentally-human condition. It’s almost autonomic, in that we go about pursuing Happiness almost without thinking about it.  It’s certainly tied to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:  being happy for some might be as basic as a full belly and safe place to sleep; or, it might be the Corner Office and a boost in an already-six-figure income. Organizational Psychology researchers, however, have reason (and research to back it up) to believe that Happiness has slightly less to do with external conditions or outcomes and much more to do with our internal wellbeing.

If our basic needs for food, shelter, safety, and a sense of belongingness (there’s Maslow again) have been assured, Happiness – the pursuit of it – takes a very interesting turn. According to extensive research, three conclusions emerge:  1) Happiness begins in the human heart; 2) Happiness is not overly influenced by such factors as genetics or random events; and 3) Happiness appears to have a set-point, for the majority of people.

There’s very good news for those of us that struggle with negative emotions from time to time. Happiness, the kind I’m talking about here, is in large part the ability to balance positive and negative feelings or emotions. Going overboard in either direction isn’t helpful. Furthermore, negative emotions, as it turns out, actually strengthen happiness by providing contrast (again, as long as we don’t allow ourselves to get ‘stuck’ in gloom).

courtesy, thoughtcatalog

One of the recent areas of Happiness study (targeting stress-related absenteesim) is Work-Life Balance. ‘Balance’ is unique to each individual. It’s something we strive for alone, in that we alone feel and understand our needs, our abilities and our limits, and our desires and aversions. The balance we achieve is up to us:  we flourish in it, or we suffer the adverse effects of neglecting our Inner World (mind, body, spirit). Short bursts of success (e.g., a winning lottery ticket) stimulate our happiness receptors, but are short-lived spikes).

Interestingly, the sense of inner balance that is the foundation of Happiness, turns out to have a “set-point”. A researcher by the name of Ed Diener developed a series of national (in the U.S.) and international studies of tens of thousands of people engaged in a wide variety of professions. Diener found that genuine Happiness is a sense of “subjective well-being”, not a response to external factors. Not only this, but, as we learn and grow through life’s experiences, Diener discovered that we encounter our own Happiness set-point:  the stage at which we often say to ourselves, “It’s time for a new experience (and new challenges)”.

courtesy, travelinphoto

So if deep and long-lasting Happiness is really more about our internal well-being, and so much less about The Chase (fill in the blank:  job, money, material possessions, relationships), then what’s to do? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, since each and every one of us is engaged in our own Balancing Act. What I know for sure is that we can help one another along the way.  Heartfelt gestures, kind words of encouragement, and whatever version of Namaste (The Divine in Me Recognizes and Honors the Divine in You) suits our belief system grace both the giver and the receiver.

In 2017, when the city managers of Paris – the official “City of Love” —  went on a rampage against the 45 tons of Love Locks fastened to its historical Pont Des Arts, they were forced to do so. The sheer weight of the million-plus locks had finally caused a section of the bridge to collapse. Such was the mythic power, on a global scale, of this famous bridge:  Love, fulfilled; Love, unrequited; Love, lost; Love, yearned for. Desires and promises captured for eternity in the hearts of padlocks whose keys were then tossed into the river Seine.  

courtesy of michellegable.com

In 2019, popular travel sites now offer suggestions for the most romantic locations (lakes, rivers, oceans – with the necessary bridges, fencing or gates or…) for the Love Lock-obsessed. As annoying and as silly as these notions might seem, they represent a very human desire to believe in wishes.  It’s more than wishing, really; the belief is in the power of unseen forces that feel magical, and that fulfill our need for a deeper, more ancient-feeling connection with those forces.

courtesy, wicca-life.com

Recent studies (one was published in early 2019, in the New York Times) show an uptick in public interest worldwide, in spiritual avenues that the majority of people probably wouldn’t refer to as ‘mainstream’. Wicca membership has increased, as have visits to astrology websites, and the use of psychics. Books and magazine articles that focus on Wellness topics have steadily grown in popularity since the 1990’s. Yoga, in all its forms, has experienced a surge in popularity. But Wellness is not the quite the same as believing in the power of spirit animals and planetary influences. Its not the same as believing in the power of a Love Lock, with the lovers’ initials etched into it, to be able to capture love forever. To slip into this realm means letting go of our need for reasons and rationales. It means re-connecting with our sense of Wonder.

A sense of Wonder is most often attributed to children, as in, To perceive something with child-like wonder. But what is that, exactly? We have memory of what it feels like, from childhood. We’re envious of those that still have it; we know that Life and living tend to extinguish it. But we also know that a sense of Wonder is real;  and, it’s one of the few things in our lives that feels authentic and un-fakeable (I think I just coined a new word, here – apologies, if necessary). I’ll define Wonder – here and now, anyway — as an acceptance of, and appreciation for what can’t be fully known or experienced with the mind. Wonder is felt. Wonder takes what we think we know can, or cannot be, and turns it on its head by presenting us with something awe-some.We don’t doubt it; we don’t need to prove it or convince anyone else that our sense of  Wonder’s valid.

This morning when I walked out my front door I checked, as I always do, the level of nectar in the hummingbird feeder to the left of the door. Surprised and delighted, I was in perfect time to catch a tiny, jet-black hummer sipping from the feeder. As if that wasn’t enough of a treat, the little thing then zoomed directly in front of my face at eye level, about 18 inches from my nose, and hovered there looking directly at me for a few seconds. Funny that I was just longing for something Wonder-ful, when it greeted me by almost touching my face.

Unlike the individual who interpreted the study (I mention above) as a sign that we’re all going completely Off The Rails  with our crystals and faeries, psychic readings and personalized Birth Charts, I think it’s completely ‘ok ‘to seek Wonder wherever we think we might find it. In the eyes of our faithful hound or mystical cat; in a flower; in the tarot cards; in a circle of wiccans giving thanks to the Great Forest and its sprites; in the power of a Love Lock to bind us forever.  Who cares? We embrace our Wonder wherever we find it and rejoice in not having to ask Why or How.

Like many people I know, I spend most of my waking hours In My Head. Thinking, planning, analyzing, problem-solving, and integrating all kinds of new information that’s interesting or useful (even some that isn’t, but hey – my mind needs baby-goat videos occasionally).

This month of July, however, I made a vow to myself that I’d give my Heart equal time, when it came to my own personal desires, and relative to my obligations to others. I didn’t realize, when I decided to act in a more heartfelt way toward my Self, how difficult it would be. If this was a diet I was trying to stick to, I’d have blown it daily since day-one:  allowing my ‘appetite’ for over-thinking all things to overrule my best intentions.

For example, why is it so hard to simply be kind to myself? Not criticize, or second-guess; do the things I enjoy first, and handle the chores later? I’ve gotten pretty good at sending loving thoughts to others who’re going through stressful times. But how often do I send my Self encouragement, or take the time to do little things (like wiggle my toes in the grass) that are nurturing? How often do I check-in with my Heart before making a decision that has the power to influence my happiness? My conclusion, as these questions popped up this month, is that my Mind has far too much power and control in my daily life. It’s a bit of a bully, really: louder and stronger than my quiet heart.

Yesterday I had a very strange and wonderful experience. Prepping for an upcoming medical procedure, I was told I needed an ultrasound of my heart. I’d had an EKG before – many years ago: the little black zigs and zags gave me no real awareness, or feeling of connection, to what my heart was doing or why (over-reacting to stress at the time). But yesterday’s ultrasound was a different experience altogether.

teepublic.com

As I lay on my side, feeling the sharp nose of the technician’s wand pushing hard under my left breast (I had to tell her to ‘chill’ with the pressure she was exerting), I began watching the screen of the machine that was giving me a startling look at my heart – in real time. OMG. There it was, beating Life through my body, in a firework crackle of red and blue bursts (the arterial and venous blood) according to a divine rhythm. I was completely transfixed by what I saw:  utterly fascinated by the beauty of it; the sheer perfection and wonder of a beating heart; my heart.

I immediately began thinking:  What have I been doing, to help this Center of My Physical Being? All of the “heart healthy” foods:  have I been eating enough? What about “heart-ache”? How silly I’ve been, to allow a single moment of sadness to toss my emotions and “break” my heart. Suddenly, the word Heartfelt took on new meaning, in my quest this month to think less, feel more. Watching the screen, actually seeing how steady and efficient it is, beating-away, despite my frequent disregard for it, my Heart became real in my Mind.

Yes, it’s a crucial physical organ; but it’s also the center – in a way that my Mind is not and could never be – of what keeps me balanced and in-tune with right action. Its beat quiets babies and animals with its reassuring grace. It hums with ease during tranquil moments, and trills with pleasure or with fear when feelings are intense. When — not if — I allow it to speak, my heart is never wrong.

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.” – Blaise Pascal.

Despite having been born into an environment that most people would consider ‘advantaged’ (white, middle-class, educated parents), I was a really young kid when major dysfunction in my household erupted. Happenings that were absolutely beyond my control created an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and insecurity. My life was upended numerous times, by the mental health issues of my mother, and the volatile and sometimes violent behavior of my father. My family unit became deeply fractured a long, long time ago; and some of its members still live in that deep, dark crevasse. I was able to climb out; in part, through my education and study of human development and psychology. But also as a result of an important realization and understanding that I grew into.

As I entered adulthood, I soon discovered the value – the extreme importance – of having Choices and Options in my life. No matter what came my way, as long as I had wiggle-room to consider possibilities – regardless of how dire the current circumstances – there was Hope. I got myself into some pretty sketchy situations during my growth years, but always had the ability to feel strengthened and even empowered by the fact that I could choose my path forward. Even when the choices were ‘bad’ , or ‘worse’, not feeling helpless and hopeless was something to be grateful for. I was, and I still am, so grateful.

 “Keep your doors open, and your options as plentiful as possible” was one of my messages to my son as he was becoming a man. (Happy to say that it’s ‘saved his bacon’ several times.) But the message is actually just a part of my larger goal of remaining flexible and resilient, despite setbacks and heartbreaks, large or small.

Recently I was thinking about this:   the vast difference between having, and not having, a ‘say’ in my daily existence. Truth be told, I’d much rather be able to steer my little boat confidently, when Life buffets it with gusty winds and gigantic waves. Sometimes, however – especially lately – the only option is to Hold On and Wait it Out.

Olha Darchuk, Artist

For a while now I’ve been on an adventure of both self-discovery and  re-invention. People and situations – along with my own self-limiting beliefs and behaviors – have begun to vanish along the way. It’s a little disconcerting. Sailing along (to continue my metaphor!) with a newfound sense of freedom , I’ve been losing my guideposts:  those familiar reminders (even if they’re negative, they’re still a kind of comfort) of my former life. One by one, a person or a situation drifts behind me and away, like passing through shoals that eventually, far out to sea, disappear altogether. Just the sky and the horizon, now.

Despite feeling liberated – which I do — there’s really no Option for me in this. I’ve accepted that I’ve had to move past my Past. To linger would have been pointless. More than this:  I would have stopped growing and stopped discovering my Self. I can think of just a few other times in life that were more painful than “staying”, when all signs, and my heart, told me it was time for a change of course. It might be a job; a relationship; a home I’ve lived in for decades. It might be something simple, like a precious memory that only brings sadness now and must be released. It might be something vague:  a subtle sensation that I’ve completed an important Phase and am ready to expand Who I Am, Where I’m Going, and What I’m Supposed to be Doing.

lds.org

There’s evidence all around me that I should be scared, or at least apprehensive, during Major Shifts and new adventures. The fact that the current unfolding seems to be happening, guided by an unseen Navigator, without my taking direct action most of the time, is sort of unnerving. Nevertheless, I don’t feel afraid – only excited. I’ve passed almost all the little buoys (I’m really stuck on this nautical theme, but it feels right!) marking Safe Waters. I can’t tell you how I know, or why I trust that I’m going in the right direction. But I’m looking at the nighttime sky now, and choosing to sail by the stars.

I’ve learned to practice — more and more as I relax into it — Gratitude, as part of my daily ritual:  thinking about and offering it – even for minor ‘pluses’ in a given day. Sometimes, in periods of off-the-charts stress, finding something to be happy about and grateful for – even something small – brings relief. It might be, that after a night of restless sleep worrying about an important choice I need to make, the neighbor across the street chooses to carpool, instead of firing up his Monster Truck at 4 a.m. (rattling my windows and catapulting me out of bed). Yes. Thank You.

One of the most amazing aspects of growing older and wiser (there are so many, really, but this one is Big) is the way that Perspective becomes one of the easiest life-skills to appreciate. The kind of Perspective I’m referring to here can only be gained (earned, actually), through time and experience on the planet. The highs and lows — celebrations and tragedies, successes and failures — allow me to understand what’s truly important, and what’s either a distraction, or totally meaningless in my experience.

By the time that penicillin was discovered in 1928, my grandmother had lost 6 of her siblings to bacterial infections that could have easily been treated with this medication. From her mid-30’s on, she had a belief in doctors and medicine that went far beyond rational. While pregnant with her first child, a doctor told her she was anemic. She agreed to be given oral doses of a liquid that made all of her teeth fall out and caused, so she later learned, her first daughter to be stillborn.

I’m definitely grateful for living in a time of so much advanced scientific information, technology and innovation in general. But lately I’ve also been thinking, adjusting my perspective, about how many innovations are a tricky balance of benefit and detriment.

A lot is being said (and studied) about the ways in which personal technology is impacting our lives. When Television came on the scene (our family’s first was a black and white model – hard to imagine, now), it was quickly decried as The Idiot Box, and The Boob Tube. The end of Reading; the end of Conversation; meals eaten on “tv trays” instead of at a table; and networks subtly shaping our buying and spending habits through advertising.

It’s an escalating addiction, Technology. The more I incorporate it into my life, the more my life seems to demand the latest versions of ‘whatever’;  so that Having is way better than Not Having. I get the big picture; I see the inevitable way that innovations will continue to improve our lives, but also make us more dependent on them (and less so, on one another).  I’m not exactly embracing it unilaterally (the way that my grandmother did the wisdom of the medical field); but I’m not rejecting it either. It’s an uneasy communion, for sure.

I’m at the age now where I can appreciate Knowing the Difference. Life before television; before the Internet, computers, smart phones, smart speakers and smart homes; virtual experiences that  might feel preferable to reality. We’re all transitioning – along with the technology of our time – and I am right there with those anticipating The Next Upgrade.

So, this  isn’t a dystopian rant. It’s an expression of extreme gratitude for Knowing the Difference, in the experiencing of Life. What it was before, and what it is now. “It’s all good,” we tell ourselves. Actually, it’s going to be exactly what we choose to make it:  Choice being the operative word. I’m feeling thankful, to have the ‘age’ and experience to know what the choices actually are, and how profoundly meaningful they will be.

The first time I went to Italy I was just a young girl. I was still in what some writers call the “colt” (filly, I guess) stage:  all long arms and legs, awkwardly trying to coordinate them into graceful movement, with utter self-consciousness. But not really caring how I looked, when it came right down to it. So I was beyond surprised when a group of Italian boys came in pursuit. My parents and I were in Venice, in search of the famous Bridge of Sighs (my father’s map-reading leading us deep into shaded, narrow streets, nowhere near the canal). Their calls to me were in Italian, of course, but the lilt of their voices communicated their approval of my appearance, and then some. The pack of four or five young men followed directly behind us, chattering loudly. One of them suddenly dashed forward, even though I was walking between both of my parents, and pinched me.  He let out a loud “Whoop!!” and sprinted away like a cricket, as my startled parents watched. The young men all then went off in another direction, laughing and talking. I was delighted. For days.

One of the things I enjoy and appreciate – as a single woman traveling abroad – is the way that men generally allow their appreciation of the female form to be completely obvious. A woman can be walking with another man and still get an admiring (if not burning with desire) look. It’s usually playful, not a ‘stalker’ type of attention. But it’s the openness, the frankness of the look that I admire. “Yes. I am looking at you because I want to, and I want you to know this, because you are looking so good.” (I’ve actually had French men say variations of this line to me; I express gratitude, and life goes on.) It’s all part of a more enlightened, in my opinion, view of sexuality that literally puts ‘sex’ into just about everything. Normale.

In California, it’s a different story. Perhaps it’s mostly in our bigger cities here, but I’ve felt it in smaller ones also. In general, there’s a practiced indifference that both men and women struggle to perfect, no matter how attracted they might be to someone. Now, I’m not talking about the bar-scene; or places where people go to hook-up. And I can only speak as a straight female, in my experience with straight men. But it’s really pretty funny (and ironic) how much effort goes into the precisely-measured response; the studied nonchalance; as though looking too hard or too long might give away Important Personal Secrets and compromise any relationship from the get-go. I’ve seen both men and women do this. I’ve learned how to do it. It’s part of a universal language, here in the Golden State. Usually, it’s pure fun. Sometimes it’s kind of pitiful.

Summertime temperatures being what they are, today I decided to make a dash to my neighborhood grocery store for some melon. As I moved through the produce section (totally jammed with people, typical for a weekend), I was aware of a very tall person moving toward me, though my eyes were scanning the fruit for freshness. Call it my long-standing situational awareness: I’m not expecting anyone to hit on me – I just don’t want to be hit or run over with a cart (as a woman did to the heel of one of my better pair of flats, recently). I looked up as the man approached me, met his eyes, and caught his as they looked down at the fourth finger on my left hand, which was bare. I felt him circle around behind me. ‘Whatever’, was my first thought, and kept going in my fruit prowl.

A very few minutes later I happened to look up once more (I can usually feel ‘eyes’ on me – again, self-protection instincts). The same man was standing about three feet away, next to a pyramid of peaches. As I looked up, his eyes searched mine. He didn’t smile, he just looked, and kept looking at me. A handsome face. A sad face. Light olive skin and very brown eyes. A little gray in his hair. But in a split- second I realized that the very imposing woman directly in front of my cart was apparently The Wife. Ah. So… were his eyes saying, “Help Me” ?

She was casual chic, all in black; a tasteful summer cashmere something-or-other around her back and shoulders. Her hair was thick, glossy and also black, pulled into a stylish pony. I could only see the side of her face: a large silver hoop, a strong jawline and a jet brow. As my eyes left her ensemble, the woman’s voice, directed at the man who’d been staring at me (did she notice, I don’t think so), cracked like a very loud whip. “Not those!” (his hand was suspended over a bag of cherries at that moment). “I told you I didn’t want those!” Oh my, I thought. Scolded loudly, in a crowded produce isle, for choosing Bing over Ranier.  Hell – I felt cowed. I edged away to avoid hearing any more. As I turned back briefly, the woman’s face was in a deep scowl. In fairness, maybe the husband’s a total jerk and he deserved this treatment. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt bleak. His look wasn’t just Help Me; it was, I Can’t Seem to Help Myself.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little wistful about my solitude  ( In-Between-Men,  as they say), I’m also quick to send my Gratitude to the Universe that I don’t have to eye-ball silent signals of Please: Just Smile at Me, in the grocery store. I’m thankful that I’ve gained the wisdom that would never allow me to stay in a relationship without passion, honor and respect. I’m also grateful that I have the understanding, if not the total ability (yet), to be candid in my appreciation of a potential love interest. Today, I’ve decided:  Be it among the cherries, or somewhere else, I’m going to let my eyes linger when they feel like it. I am not going to pretend indifference, but fully take-in an interesting-looking (hopefully single) man. If he clocks me doing this, so much the better. I think I might even give him a little “Whoop!!” See what happens.

I’ve always been one to pay attention to subtle signs in my daily life. Lately I’ve been seeing pregnant women everywhere. If I wasn’t so far past the nesting-stage of life, I might be concerned:  I can still recall how seeing puppies everyday at one point triggered the menagerie I have now !

I think what I’m seeing and feeling – perhaps how I’m choosing to interpret my senses —  in these (mostly young) women is Optimism. Having taken the leap myself once, I’m inclined to ask (silently, of course), “Are you sure you know what this means?” A tad bit late for that question, but still. Little Thing 1, 2 or 3 will be a lifetime experience, starting with the crapshoot of whose genetic code they’ll have and whether they’ll be pliant, sweet little darlings, or, what feels like a life-long Labor of Love.  Life is never the same after welcoming children into the world. It’s one of the Big Adjustments.

But Nature, in its wisdom, has a plan. In addition to those wonderful hormones that soon blur the memory of labor pains, everything and everyone around Baby takes a backseat, so that Life – for a while, anyway —  is rainbow-hued and harmonious in its rhythm. Without Optimism, we’d never make half of the momentous life decisions that we do. Which is why nurturing it is so helpful, at any age, in any circumstance.

The Irish essayist George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) has always been best-known for his keen observations and acerbic wit. Shaw was the first to write the statement (later modified by Oscar Wilde), “Youth is wasted on the young”. Shaw mused that so very many actions we take in our youthful experience are done blindly, haphazardly, and with a kind of idiotic hope. (Shaw had very existential leanings, along with similar thinkers of his time). Shaw’s fantasy, if I can for a brief minute give my own interpretation, was a wise and experienced mind inside a young, strong body. Yeah:  not going to happen until we all become bionic. Still, I take his point: it would’ve been really nice to know then – in my 20’s, say – what I know now, about Life.

 “Youth may (in more than a few ways, from a curmudgeonly perspective) be wasted on the young”, as Shaw wrote; but Optimism is not the sole property of any age group. Regardless of how many days might be left on the calendar (no one has a lock on that piece of information), feeling like each day is a clean slate, a new opportunity, a fresh “take” is always within reach.

When still an undergraduate, one of my favorite classes was a philosophy course I took as part of my General Ed. The textbook for the class, a ‘gem’ still in my library and well-thumbed, features an essay from Ralph Waldo Emerson (another vintage thinker and writer that many others have since gently plagiarized).

R.W. Emerson

Emerson tells us how we can, every day, jump-start our Hope and Optimism. For me, attempting to nurture optimism in my heart gets a boost when I silence my Inner Critic. Here’s a snippet of Emerson’s “meditation” that I  keep by my bedside and usually close my day with:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

So gentle. So patient and understanding. So nurturing. So full of hope and optimism. Now — more than ever — words we need to breathe in, as we exhale our worries.

I’ve never liked waiting. For anything. Today in a short line at my local pharmacy, there was only one cashier; and she was training an obvious new hire. OMG. I heard identical, patiently-repeated instructions in monotone from the head cashier, after each identical mistake the new person made. “Second checker, please!” I sent this command telepathically to store management, to no avail. Rather than whip out my phone (I’d already checked my mail and news feeds) my eyes began scanning shelves around me for what I might need, but didn’t know I needed – yet. The new hire was aware of the vibes being directed toward her from the restless people in line and was growing increasingly flustered. I considered a space-age-looking nicotine delivery ‘barnacle’ for the skin. I don’t even smoke, but the idea of a drug patch was tempting at that moment.

Waiting, big or small, means something or someone else is in control. Yes, I have an uneasy relationship with that word. I think I should have more of it; the Universe believes I should have less. You know how that goes, right? I get lots of lessons about ‘waiting’. But I’m not really talking about store lines here; or waiting at the train station or airport; or, to see my dentist or eye doctor. In these venues I’m able to distract myself while waiting: I almost always have something to read in my super-sized purse (which is usually carrying what I might need if stranded for two days).

No. The control I long for is over the big stuff. Putting Heartbreak behind me. Waiting for New Love. Getting past a significant Disappointment. Being able to Move to a new city, free of the obligations tying me to my current one. Waiting for that ‘shift’ in the heart and mind that gives instant relief: the signal that I’m over the hump of waiting for the vanishing-act of whatever hurt, frustration, or longing that’s taken control of my wellbeing.

Like most people, I’ve read a lot (and even absorbed some wisdom) about Perfect Timing. I’m referring to the philosophy that all things unfold in the time and manner that they should. In my heart I know this to be mostly true. (Try telling someone whose son just overdosed ‘All is As it Should Be’ – tough sell, that one.) But my brain is another matter. There’s a reason that I struck out on my own when I was 17. There’s a reason behind my career choices (allowing for so much autonomy). I know where I’m going and I want to be in charge of how and when I get there. Note:  I don’t want or need to control other people, just my immediate surroundings.

How did I get this way? The list is long, friends. Part of it is my personality, but much of it relates to the circumstances surrounding my early years. Not feeling able to trust that Those in Charge knew what they were doing. I had evidence. Even as a young kid. So, as soon as I could, I took action; I made changes; I grabbed control of my own journey-forward in emotional and material ways. The problem now is – well, it’s not really a problem anymore, since I stumbled on the solution recently. The problem was how to transition (comfortably) from Action to Receptivity.

Receptivity (not new in my knowledge, but in actual practice) is not the same thing as being passive. Receptivity is allowing, instead of resisting. It takes plenty of attention and engagement, as I’m finding out. Receptivity takes the ‘sting’ out of waiting for me, in that it allows me to see, feel and appreciate the small steps I’m taking – even when it feels like I’m standing still. Do I still fight the need to take action when Life’s just not moving fast enough in the direction I want it to go? Absolutely. ‘Action’ is what I’m used to; it’s always been my go-to strategy. But I’m going to give Receptivity some time – a month or so ? Or…maybe I won’t give it a timeline at all, but instead, see where it wants to take me.

(Channeling The Who to begin this Post…) Here’s my question for today:  Other than for sociologic discussions, why do we need to isolate, characterize and compare Generations of human beings? It seems to me that we’re already in our ‘corners’ on all kinds of topics, ready to advance with fists up, to argue, fight and defend. Or, we’re ready to cower meekly when others shove us into one-size-fits-all boxes.Why is it that birth generations have become fodder for even more discord? I mean, do we need more?

The Greatest Generation (aka, The Silent Generation). Baby Boom-ers. Generation X, Y and Z (how insulting that Mainstream Minds have so far been unable to create more flattering ‘tags’ for those born after 1965). What purpose do these labels serve? How can they possibly be representative of all people born into certain timespans?

Yesterday I read an editorial by a prolific journalist, commentator and author who writes for the New York Times. His piece was titled, “Will Gen Z Save the World?” Fact: you’ll get no argument from me that our Earth and the people on it need saving. But the implication of the editorial was that everyone else prior to Gen Z has already screwed-up or given up. So now the survival of our planet and its inhabitants rests on the shoulders of those born after 1995. No Pressure, right?

Not to say that 24 or 25 year olds aren’t up to the task; but, what does this say about everyone not in this group? Are they, like the Roman emperor Nero, just blindly playing their fiddles while Rome burns? I don’t know about you, but I’m more aligned with the character Howard Beale, in the movie “Network”. His famous rallying cry  “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” is still hailed as a pivotal moment (righteous tirade) in U.S. film (and social) culture evolution. (Especially appropriate, here in the States, right now.)

According to a nationwide Pew survey conducted in 2018 (as noted in the editorial I’m referring to), thousands of American citizens were asked what, if anything, brought meaning to their lives. An overwhelming number of respondents (of all ages, btw) reported feeling besieged by depression, drug and alcohol dependency; a bit fuzzy about meaning and purpose; and struggling with a nationwide moral-compass spinning cartoonishly, out of control.Once again, you’ll hear no disagreement from me about the confusion and chaos, despair and divisiveness coating our hearts and minds like toxic sludge. But – how far back do we go, to arrive at the beginning of how this current situation evolved?

Looking at the way we put people into buckets, we tend to start with The Silent Generation:  stoic, penny-pinching Depression-era survivors who, incidentally, also heroically joined with allies to defeat Hitler. They came home from World War II and celebrated by creating a tsunami of babies:  These Baby Boom-ers were raised in households focused on Exsitential Lessons. Finding some kind of work (e.g., mowing lawns) just to have pocket money was a motivator starting at around age 10. The drive continued, to college or trade schools; making money and busting all kinds of materialistic moves in the world. Their actions may seem a little selfish in hindsight, but such were the expectations.The common belief now seems to be that this group has done little beyond consuming too much and trashing the earth. To add insult to injury, Boom-ers are also showing remarkable longevity.

Pros and cons are debated and on-view ( books, articles and on the Internet) about Boom-ers and subsequent generations, with finger-pointing and labeling in all directions. But the truth is, each generation is unique in the challenges it faces, growing up and then entering the world. No single group of people can or should take all of the blame for our society’s dysfunctions;  nor should “X, Y, or Z” be assumed to be the only groups in possession of the morality, sensibility, intelligence and motivation needed to get-moving on fixes (as the writer of the editorial directly claims the Z-ers are).

Most people feel anxious when confronted with significant, or unwelcome Change. This is especially true now, with so many high-stakes topics to deal with globally, and all at once. But for each generation of human beings so far, there’ve always been challenges to navigate. It seems to me, that humanity has much more to concern itself with in the Now than calling-out past or current generations.

Our world is more complicated and dangerous than it ever has been. This we know. What are the Forces at work, causing us to focus so intently on our differences, rather than on our commonalities? Not one of us can go back and re-write the time or circumstances of our birth. We just have to “Deal”: whatever it takes. Spoken like a True Boom-er, I know; but it’s a lesson I learned from The Silent Generation, and feel it’s pretty much worth passing-on.

It feels like years that I’ve been actively engaged in trying to figure myself out. Not with any lofty ‘enlightenment’ goal, necessarily; just trying to troubleshoot, problem solve, make sense of my choices and their consequences. Even now, I play the ‘what if’ game in my head:  second-guessing the paths I’ve taken and wondering how my life would have been different if…..I also wonder if all of this thinking is part of my overall problem. I feel comfortable blaming Socrates.

This still-revered Greek scholar and philosopher (born roughly 470 BCE – let that sink in for a minute) made the pronouncement, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” His statement was supposedly a very quiet utterance, made under painful and dramatic circumstances – perhaps why the local scribes took note and preserved those words forever.  Socrates was on trial for “impiety (although he was religious, he scorned state-sanctioned gods) and corruption of youth (minds and bodies, supposedly)”. Socrates was convicted and given a choice:  permanent exile, or death. Rather than be cut-off from the people and places that provided the flow of learning and wisdom that were as necessary to him as air to breathe, Socrates chose death (by drinking hemlock). To this day, a wide variety of organizations  still use variations of The Socratic Method:  a special kind of conversation and discussion that stimulates insightful thinking and  deep learning.

In my current stage of life I wonder how truly valuable the “examined” life is.  Having just written that, I also acknowledge what a ridiculous and banal affliction this might be considered by the many people struggling with survival in the Here and Now. Just a quick glance at my bookshelves exposes me as someone who has both the time and resources to invest in print and recordings from the Self Help genre.

This wasn’t always the case, however – my shelves being lined with so many options. When I was still a teenager, a dog-eared copy of the book “Be Here Now” (written by Ram Dass in 1971) was circulated among my friends. It’s still in print and popular. At the time, it was the only personal guidance book I’d come across that made sense:  the Present Moment is all there is. Any time at all spent in the Past is pointless:  misspent time and energy.

But why is it still so hard to not  look backwards occasionally? I believe it’s because – despite what Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle, Abraham and others tell us – the unconscious mind is in fact a treasure trove of information that (for most of us, anyway) is still being processed in our daily lives. What happened Then still impacts our decisions Now. This is one of the reasons why dream therapy is often helpful:  things that get pushed down and away bubble up, regardless.

I do my best to live in the Now. I do practice Mindfulness (for me, that word is just shorthand for Slow the F— Down). But I also reflect on people and events from my past. I give myself permission to disobey the majority of books in my library. In other words, I don’t allow myself to wallow in nostalgia or regret. I do, however, take quick dips into those cool, deep and dark waters of my personal history when it feels right and necessary. (Typically, this is when I catch myself repeating a thought or behavior pattern that didn’t work then, and needs to be jettisoned now.) I’m fussy, though:  others don’t get to bring up my Past (they do so, at their peril!). My learning, from previous mistakes, is my personal responsibility and my personal domain:  it’s a sensitive and tender place that I visit in quiet moments and don’t need to dialogue about. Likewise, I don’t remind others of their past mistakes – large or small – as tempting as it may be at times. There are people out there who are paid to listen and to help, and, plenty of books to read.