Life’s Purpose

Scenic trail

I have seen a couple of interviews with Oprah Winfrey since the publication of her new book The Path Made Clear about finding our purpose in life, Emma Thompson brought up the same subject on the Ellen DeDegeneres Show right after I’d seen the interviews and then it came up a third time over dinner with a friend.

I always feel slightly “lacking” when I hear people say things like, “This is exactly what I’m meant to do,” or “I’ve always known this was my path.” How do they know that? Sure, I’ve had several times in my life when I was doing something I’d pursued for years and loved it, but did that necessarily make it my “path?” I suppose the underlying question is probably, “What defines a life path?” Is it something you enjoy? Is it something that leaves a lasting legacy? Is it something that makes life better for those around us?

I loved my dancing career, worked hard to get there, hated having to retire and have never found anything where I felt as comfortable. But was that my life’s path because I enjoyed it? If our lives are about our contribution to this planet we live on, then I’m not sure I achieved much on that path other than being happy. That didn’t do much for improving anyone else’s life or contributing to the planet we inhabit.

So is life about that old saying, “You only live once” and it’s only about enjoying yourself while you’re here or is it about what you leave behind? I believe the path changes as I grow and learn, and so that moves me in different directions which, of course, brings new challenges and new lessons, but my question remains. What’s my ultimate purpose? If I’m meant to save humanity, I missed the turn.

And if life is all about what I learn along my path, does that knowledge benefit me somehow when I reach the end of the road? If reincarnation is real, then I guess those life lessons will benefit me on the next go around. On Ellen DeGenerese’s show, Emma Thompson commented that she was about to turn 60 and she found it a little disconcerting because she felt like she’d done the things she set out to do, and wondered if she was meant to carry on or move on to something else.

In Oprah’s book, there is a contribution from Wintley Phipps that says, “When you watch the things you dreamed of as a kid come to reality, those are moments of destiny. But I’ve realized that moments of destiny are moments for which you were created but they’re not the reason you were created.” If we’re happy with those moments of destiny, then what are we missing?

I haven’t found my ultimate answer yet but I know this: I don’t believe the people we cross paths with are there by coincidence. So that means that the ones I like are there to teach me something (or help point me in the right direction) just as those I dislike are also meant to teach me something. Although I don’t yet know what I’m meant to take with me at the end, that doesn’t mean I don’t continually move forward and find goals that inspire me. What if the ultimate purpose is to take the lessons from those around us to make us teachers for others?

I think retirement and age combine to add to this conundrum. You work all your life (usually for someone else) hoping you’re making a difference. But then you retire and you realize that things go on without you exactly as they always have. So did you contribute anything at all or were you only there to learn something for your own path? Were the obstacles you encountered worth it? And if not, you may be old, but you still have life left in those old bones so what are you meant to do now? If you’re still here, then your destiny isn’t complete, right?

Is the ultimate purpose inward reflection or outward giving? Or maybe inward reflection leads to outward impact. In any case, I’ll keep pursuing the goals that bring me a sense of contentment and happiness and wait for things to become clearer.

Fallen tree path

Stereotypes are Alive and Well – No Matter the Generation

Now that I’m officially a senior, I find it interesting to see the stereotypes attributed to me, old and youngthings I also once attributed to “old folks” without knowing a darn thing about the individuals. Some of them I can laugh at; some annoy me.

I remember, back in my dancing days when I was young and svelte, seeing an overweight person ordering dessert and making some stupid comment about why they couldn’t just control their sweet tooth. And then I retired from dancing, stopped smoking, put on close to 50 pounds and discovered I couldn’t turn down doughnuts and pastries and cookies and pie and cake … you get it. Karma’s a bitch but the lessons are invaluable. Just sometimes wish I could learn them sooner.

I also remember friends snickering at old men with socks and sandals or old women with ugly varicose veins and the audacity to go out in public in shorts! Did they look in the mirror and think this look was attractive?

Here’s what I think now: I think we dress for others when we’re younger. A job can depend on that first impression. A first date can depend on that first impression. Your place in the pecking order can depend on that first impression. But when you reach my age and you realize that (a) you’re not likely to be dressing for a job or a mate ever again and (b) you’ve learned that you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about the way you look, it makes it really easy to live in sweats, sneakers and ratty T-shirts. My success no longer depends on someone else’s opinion.

Each generation likes to think it’s raised the next one to be more tolerant, more forgiving, more discerning. Not so. Stereotypes exist, no matter the generation or the upbringing. The “young’uns” as my southern, small town generation would call them,  have just as many preconceived ideas about the older generation as we do about them. Case in point: I have sat in Starbucks and listened to kids in their teens, twenties, thirties and even forties opine all the old people who drive too slow, all the rich kids who are snobs, the immigrants who won’t learn English, the homeless who beg for money and spend it all on cigarettes or booze, the rocker who must be high on drugs, etc. I could give even more egregious examples but these will do.

Here’s the thing: somehow the young’uns don’t seem to see that they’re doing exactly the same thing they accuse us oldies of doing. This came to my attention when I was trying to explain to a computer repairman, who had helpfully suggested that next time I had an issue with my new computer I should try to resolve it online with a customer service rep, that I had tried that, but that the operator appeared to be in another country as her English seemed limited and I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say. He looked at me like he very much wanted to tell me that all the customer reps were highly trained, not in a foreign country and that the issue was probably that I didn’t understand the customer serviceinstructions. But the truth is, that’s not the case. The sentences were written like you hear beginners in a language communicate (me included when I was traveling in foreign countries and trying to explain something): subjects and verbs are sometimes inverted, adjectives are misplaced and articles are eliminated. Then when a wrong word or two is used, the meaning and nuance of the instruction goes all to hell pretty fast. But most of all, I was struck by the look on his face and the realization that he would always think the fault was mine because I was old and clearly not able to understand.

It was frustrating to see myself as a stereotype, but I guess that was inevitable. After all, there are a few that fit: I no longer dress to impress, I sometimes have to ask how to do IPhonesomething on my iPhone, I wear “granny pants” instead of G-strings, I wear “sensible” shoes and I put fiber in my morning smoothie.

 

 

Mental Clock

I’m not sure why it took 66 years and 3 months of retirement to figure out that something I’ve read about for years but never applied to myself is not only true but suddenly blatantly obvious. I’ve discovered that not only is it smart to take breaks now and again from tasks but in order to be productive, I need to schedule those breaks into my day in solid, non-negotiable blocks of time.  If I don’t, I procrastinate about projects that are going to require chunks of time and lots of concentration. I either end up refusing to work on them, wasting time with useless errands or distractions that lead to frustration at my own laziness, or forcing myself to sit in the chair and work on them until I’m so exhausted that I’m making mistakes (that I then use as my justification for procrastinating the next time around).

I’m not sure why I never noticed exactly how vital breaks are to my ability to complete my tasks. Maybe while I was still working, I moved from project to project to keep things fresh without being consciously aware that I was working “brain breaks” into my day or maybe I took breaks to chat with co-workers and that was enough to let a part of the working brain recoup. Who knows?

In any case, it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to plop my butt down in the chair and stay glued to it until I’m finished. I don’t even have to complete things the same day. What a concept. I found that if I allow myself an hour and a half (two if I want to push it) to work on a gnarly task, then not only change what I’m working on but also the environment I’m in, I’m capable of returning refreshed and approach the task with a whole new attitude. I complete things twice as fast and with less errors. I’m slowly developing a method that works really well for me: spend an hour and a half working on a major project, leave the house and go to the gym, head to Starbucks and work on a different project – editing an article for the aromatherapy journal, reading a magazine, creating webinars for my online series, return home and tackle that initial project for a bit more, take another break to watch some television and do some knitting, or do prep work for a new recipe, then circle around one last time to that first task. I’ve amazed myself at not only how well that works but also how much fresher I feel at the end of the day.

As I said, I don’t know why it took me so long to learn this but I’m pleased as punch (Southern expression) that I have.

yellow to-do list

Retirement Mental Shift

person-1262046_1280Retirement is a tricky thing mentally. It’s been three months now but I still find that my first reaction to not finishing everything on my day’s to-do list is a sense of panic. Running out of time. Hurry, hurry! But then it kicks in that no, I don’t have to rush and I don’t even have to get everything done the same day. Oddly, I always have to tell myself this little piece of news several times before my mind moves from frantic to relaxed. One day, I’ll laugh it all off and instead take a snooze in the park.

Really the only thing I adjusted to immediately was not setting an alarm, and sleeping until the sky starts to lighten up is pure bliss. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I have two cats who make it very clear that it’s breakfast time but I feel a sense of satisfaction every single morning when I wake up without an alarm clock and it’s not dark outside. I hated getting up in the dark.

The thing I worried about the most has apparently been banished from my subconscious because I never think about it any more – being bored. I’m easily as busy as when I was working. The difference is that I don’t have to look like I’m busy every minute of the day and for 8 hours straight. I can sit back and relax whenever the mood strikes. When I’ve had enough of computer work, I go up to my local   coffee and a bookStarbucks, grab a coffee and either read a book or magazine, or turn my mind to the development of a different project. It’s a great break and helps me come home refreshed and ready for round two. So far, I’m loving retirement and wishing I could’ve afforded to do it years ago.

 

Essential Oil / Herbal Webinars

I spent the months leading up to my retirement worrying that I’d be bored, sitting around staring out the window with little to no contact with another living, breathing person. But I’ve found that I have about a bazillion things I want to accomplish and I’ve been just as busy, if not more, than when I was working on a schedule. But I like it!

Having retired after 13 years of managing a complementary therapies program in hospice and also creating separate products through my outside company for about 11 of those years, I’ve finally managed to put together a series of webinars to pass on the knowledge. Since I started in hospice, about half of my webinars are hospice-related but the other half are appropriate for almost anyone – individuals with little to no experience working with essential oils and herbs and massage therapists who want to tailor a product to a specific client or two.

My first two are scheduled and I’m busy finding phone numbers for as many hospices in the U.S. as I can and calling them to get an email address where I can send my list of topics. Don’t think that doesn’t take some time and energy!

hand-in-hand-1686811_1280So I’m starting with “Starting a Hospice Aromatherapy Program,” followed by “A Beginner’s guide to Essential Oil Safety.” Too many people are out there hawking oils with absolutely no understanding of the chemistry or of creating effective and safe therapeutic dosages. I used to get calls from all over the nation from other hospices who heard we were using essential oils for symptom management and they wanted to know how we set up the program, what permissions we needed, what training the coordinator needed, what symptoms to focus on and how to determine safe limits for the formulas. I have a few ideas to offer.

But then I’ve also applied to be a provider for Nevada massage therapists and once that’s approved (hopefully), I have a few webinars designed to help them create blends that can be used for specific client issues: oils for minor skin problems, salves for cuts and scars and body butters for emotional issues. Many of these are appropriate for   glass-3141865_1280individuals who want to learn to make their own herbal tinctures, herbal-infused oils, and lotions and body butters. So each webinar’s hand-out will include a recipe to get them started. I think the beginners will be amazed at how simple some of them are to make.

My other topics so far include “Carrier and Essential Oils for Muscles and Joints,” “Combating Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia with Essential Oils & Herbs,” “Essential Oils for Symptom Management,” “Essential Oils and Herbal Aids to Combat Constipation,” “Formulating Effective Salves for Cuts, Scrapes & Burns,” “Aromatherapy and the Mind: Essential Oils for Common Emotional Issues,” and “Herbal-Infused Oils and Body Butters for Common Skin Issues.”

mortar-3511896_1280Wish me luck. For years I’ve wanted to have the time and energy to teach webinars and include as much of the information I’ve amassed over the years as possible. I hope it goes well and that I can end up adding lots more topics. What a great thing for me to do in my retirement to keep me busy and engaged. If you’re so inclined, jump over to http://www.scentsibility.net and see if one of them grabs your interest.

One Month In

'Which pair of pajamas says 'smart casual'?'I spent the two months after giving my retirement notice worrying about whether or not I’d be able to stay occupied or would find myself twiddling my thumbs, bored for hours and hours with nothing to do and no one to talk to. Well, so far, that’s turned out to be a joke.

Of course, the one thing I looked forward to has panned out beautifully. More than anything else, I hated getting up to an alarm (any kind of alarm, whether white noise, soothing waterfall or music) in the dark. I vowed to only go to bed when I felt like it and never get out of bed until it was starting to get light outside. I’ve stuck to that one (mostly) and it’s glorious. Although I don’t always make it until it’s technically “light outside” due to two hungry kitties who are insistent on their breakfast hour, I manage it most days. Then I can make my coffee, scroll through my emails, play a few games of Candy Crush Soda or solve a Microsoft jigsaw puzzle, and leisurely plan my day.

Fearing destitution, I took on an editor position for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) for their quarterly journal. I thought it would be an easy way to make a few bucks to supplement Social Security and still have time to work on my writing projects. That has not developed exactly as I imagined. I have three new online programs I’m struggling to learn and master and thus putting in way more time than I’m going to get paid for since the agreement was for a specific sum with the publication of each edition. But I certainly don’t have to worry about endless hours with nothing to do.

And there are two upsides to this new venture. I can work at my own pace and, best of all, I can work in my pajamas.