Thursday, September 23, 2010
Psychology Today has a great article called "Revenge of the Introverts". The author Laura Helgoe claims that 50% of the population are introverts. She makes the important distinction between shy people and introverts. They are not the same. I am not shy but consider myself an introvert. I can actually at times be outspoken but still consider myself an introvert.
Helgoe uses the example of two people at a dance standing on the sidelines. The shy person wishes they were not there but the introvert is totally happy to be there. Introverts prefer to be alone. She uses Beth Wheatley as an example. Beth runs as she chooses solitary exercise over team sports or gyms where groups of people gather to work out. She also opts out of after work social events. I share much in common with Beth.
I am by no means shy but I am definitely an introvert. I know it and Myers Briggs proved it. Helgoe speaks of the recovery time needed after a session with large groups of people. She says introverts need that time to digest events and information. I know that I just need it to keep going out there. Extroverts live for social interaction and introverts avoid it. I myself do not mind small groups of people, dinner parties for four or dinner out with a friend,
small groups of people I enjoy. And then some down time.
I wrote in an earlier blog about coping mechanisms that we develop to survive in an extroverted society. Helgoe speaks of our Western society as extremely extroverted but reveals that there are many societal groups where introversion is valued more. Compensatory behaviors help an introvert to function in a society where extroversion is valued.
Introverts tend to be self critical as the area of the brain that controls speech is active during the recovery periods and Helgoe attributes that to inner conversations which occur to resolve and digest issues and information.
"Introverts and extraverts report a mood boost from the company of others. For introverts however the boost may come at a cost." When I need downtime I need to just go. Middle of a seminar. Party. Need to remove myself. I do not consciously spend time digesting or assimilating information...I just need time alone.
It works for me. As I get older I enjoy more time alone. I have a multitde of friends in the wings whom I see individually. I steer clear of company functions and am usually busy on party nights.
Cool article. Nice to validate what I know to be true in my life.
Friday, September 10, 2010
That elusive real self seems to peek out at me at certain moments in my life. It is in those moments that I recognize my authentic self. Stripped away is the self that has been built to respond to the world. Magic moments.
I sat to list the things that made me feel the most rooted and/or the most nourished.Here they are in no particular order.
1. Reading a bestseller curled up in an armchair by the fire on a rainy day.
2. Walking my dog on a black velvet summer night and catching a glimpse of a silent starry night.
3. Creating an amazing meal slowly and without obligation.
4. Having my first cup of coffee in the morning.
5. Driving with the roof down on a summer night and listening to Brad Barker's Dinner Jazz.
6. Running through the park downtown with my IPOD.
7. Shopping at the market on Saturday morning. The busker's music and the colour and the freshness of all the stalls.
8. Reading travel magazines and business books at Chapters.
9. Drinking an amazing Australian Shiraz pretty much anywhere.
10. Hanging out with my boys and chatting after a night out.
These things put me in a peaceful place. Make your list and try to put more of these moments into your life. These are the moments when you recognize the person you are becoming.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Robin Sharma speaks of conscious living. Leaving the crowd behind and living consciously. A person I know asked me why do I have the need to make all these changes in my life. He said lots of people live in the same house and do the same things for the rest of their lives and they are happy. It made me question myself too. Why can I not just be happy and be where I am. Why this nagging need to carve out a new place. I wonder about that too. That person made me doubt my own thoughts.
Are these people happy or unconsciously living out their time here? Failing to be truly alive means we missed a chance to live at the top of our game. And we missed the chance to learn and grow. To become the person we are meant to become. Robin Sharma calls it "playing small" with our lives. Mediocrity. Safety. Small.
Living semi consciously now. I feel the excitement of the next phase but I am not there yet. Viewing it as a journey makes it okay. When the clouds break I can see the stars in the distance and that reminds me that I am patiently moving along the path. It is during the journey that we grow not in the actual attainment of the goal.
A Jonathan Livingston Seagull moment. That book was first published in 1970. About a seagull who tires of the mediocrity of life and with great effort moves to a higher plane of his existence. Serendipitous discoveries.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Finally decided to straighten out my teeth that have become more displaced as I age. The orthodontist said that the distance between your canine teeth actually gets shorter as you age and your jaw changes. This change is more pronounced on your lower jaw but happens to both top and bottom. That explains why my teeth were once straight and perfect and now are folding over each other. The braces make me feel narcissistic at my age as they have always been a teenage affliction. But the orthodontist said that 25% of his practice is now adults. 14 month commitment.
The frown line may be next. I fear Botox or it's equivalences as foreign substances in a body that needs simplicity now. But as the frown line starts to resemble a chasm between my eyes it makes me consider the possibility. Then I go back to the concept of your face reflecting your experiences in life and that there is a wisdom in the lines we carry. I am not disturbed by the other lines and wrinkles only this one as it implies a stern, angry, unhappy person and I am none of those things.
Another obvious sign of aging is the appearance of batwings. Mine are small but I see them. Despite an enjoyable, vigourous exercise program of aerobics and weights, I still have batwings. I recall seeing a video of Madonna waving from the top of the steps to an airplane and even she had bat wings. She has trainers, money and time and her body is her marketing tool and yet she still had batwings. Let's you forgive and adapt to the changes that overtake your best intentions.
How funny life is that at the time when our minds become the clearest our bodies become less useful. Maybe one is a prerequisite for the other. Maybe in order to acquire the wisdom of a life view, we need to lose the vehicle that has been our biological tool that has propelled us forward to date. Nice that it happens in little pieces and not all at once. Profound that as younger people dismiss us as "older people", we have this invisible wisdom that feels victorious and requires no recognition. We strive to be recognized if we remain propelled by our teenage ego. But when our esoterical wisdom clicks in the ego is dispelled and loses it's power to direct our lives.
We never fully conquer our ego, so the existence of braces and Botox and exercise allow us to improve this human shell in which our developed mind resides.
Susan Shellenbarger's book The Breaking Point is an amazing book! She writes about women in midlife and illuminates the different paths that each women takes to design her new life. She reflects back to me the very things I am struggling with and organizes and validates them. Reduces some of the confusion. It is full of stories from women who walked before me on this path.
It also opened the conversation with my mother on her experience. Her experience may have been less explosive as I think that 30 years ago it was not mainstream enough create massive change at midlife. So they quietly went about pursuing their new goals. It did not change their feelings about that time. They still analyzed their life choices and made new ones. But our sense of entitlement has grown since then and our financial and social independence also gives us more freedom to explore our options in a more expansive way.
I think I have been in a mild state of dissatisfaction for maybe 5 years now. Then it became a focal point for the last 2 years. The true momentum has only gathered steam in the last 2 or 3 months when I realize there are ways to finance the change, precipitated also by the fact that my employment may be unstable so my future is at risk. And that it is okay.
My passage seems slower than the women in Shellenbarger's book but there is really no fixed time frame on this experience. Perhaps there is an element of safety once again in how I go about this. There is also the need to fully experience my children and not disrupt their lives in order to change mine. It is an opportunity to sketch out the next 30 years and then as time goes on to add colour and dimension to those sketches. There is a sense that life should not just happen but that I can orchestrate how it unravels! To a certain extent. (Not everything is within my control.)
I have one teen at home now. The other is gone to University. They have been my reason to be. And now they go forward to create their own lives. The second child's departure, coincidentally (I think not)occurs in the same year as my 55th birthday. Thus the 5 year plan ending at my 55th birthday. It aches to have my older son move on so I know it will be traumatic to watch my second move on.
If I stay in the same container life could be lonely and feel like the pieces are missing. If I start to move new pieces in place now, they will sweep me away when the time comes to say goodbye. I recall going off to University and out West when I was a teen and thinking of nothing except what was ahead. I know my sons are also experiencing that. I need to create a similar forward looking excitement in my own life. And why not. Thirty years ahead. I have so many great ideas!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Discontent is a sign of awakening. The awakening of things long buried that struggle to the surface of your reality. We need not fear this time, as discontent, while being uncomfortable, is our guide. Pointing out the way. Rustlings of priorities long since buried by responsibilites and accountabilities of being an adult. Why do we wait this long to follow our bliss? Maybe we followed our bliss and now the bliss has changed.
Discontent. When you feel it, it is hard to view it as good. You get this urge to bury it again because it feels awkward and hard to deal with. If we let it surface and sit and analyze the things that we are discontented with maybe it will create a positive momentum. Like if you do not deal with a problem, it seems to get bigger. Maybe if we do not let out our vague feelings of discontent and look at them in the sunlight, then we cannot deal with them and they rumble vaguely as a constant unidentified irritant.
So discontent is positive? Need to repeat that one a few times to really believe. But I see the potential in believing so I will work on this one.
I cannot recall who said this line but it is the most perfect definition of midlife that I have seen. Midlife is the time when you no longer look at how old you are but instead you count the years you have left. Up until now, I had never thought of how many years I had left. Now it is how I view my life.
When you think of how many years you have left and then feel your power to fill those years with content of your own choosing, it is quite exhilarating and intimidating at the same time.
I can all of a sudden identify women in my life who have moved through this experience at different ages. One friend left a high paying job, climbed Kilimanjaro and then went to school for her PhD. Another friend went to the Philippines and when she returned she left her husband and is now considering other changes in her life.
Women want changes that matter. It is not a new man or a new car that satisfies our deepest longings but rather the things that feel right, satisfy our need for authenticity and the things that touch our heart songs.
I did an exercise with a coach once and she asked to me list 30 personal qualities that were important to me. I listed 8 and could not think of anymore. When we spoke she encouraged me to extend the list. I did get to 30 eventually and then she asked me to choose the 3-4 that were most important to me. Then, ironically, I had trouble shortening the list to 4. Here is what I ended up with:
Personal Power defined as strength, belief in myself, clarity.
Authenticity defined as friendship, trust and being my authentic self.
Continuous Learning defined as Knowledge, Achievement and Trying New Things.
Freedom defined as Adventure, Choice and Variety.
At any point in our lives that list will change and grow and some choices that did not make the final list will now move up the list. Try to create your list of 30 things and you will see how interesting and difficult it is. And then shorten it. It is a great exercise in clarity. Your list will also point you in the right direction as you evaluate your ideas against the things that matter most to you.
For all of you who have been reading my blog each time I publish, I ask you this...has anyone noticed that this indeed is a bona fide midlife crisis in my life?
Here is how Cathy Meyer at about.com describes the symptoms of a midlife crisis.
Unhappiness with life and the lifestyle that may have provided you with happiness for many years.
Boredom with people and things that may have been of interest to you before.
Feeling a need for adventure and change.
Questioning the choices, you have made in your life and the validity of decisions made years before.
Confusion about who you are and where you are going.
Anger at your spouse and blame for feeling tied down.
Unable to make decisions about where they want to go with their life.
A few of these may apply given the content of my previous blogs. How about that. I am a typical person experiencing a midlife crisis. I wanted to view this time as something so much more positive than that.
I am experiencing my midlife crisis but I prefer to look at it as a midlife quest. A quest for new directions and things that matter. All the writings on the subject indicate that it is, despite it's trite handle, a redefining, reinventing stage of our lives and that we need to be patient and let the experience unravel as it should. There is a peaceful knowing in that.