Small and not so small blessings

Lynda Linke logoJuly 8th will be the fifth anniversary of my “reinvention” journey – the day I retired from the working world and began living life in a different way than I had for the previous 35+ years. Years ago I read somewhere that retirement for “Boomers” is different from their parent’s retirement and that many of us like to think of it more as an opportunity for “reinvention”. That’s a fairly typical Boomer way of looking at things – slightly self-centered and egotistical, goal-oriented, forward thinking, and always striving to be different from previous generations. We’re not going to have our parent’s retirement! Perish the thought!! We might even be the first generation that really didn’t believe we would grow old, or at least the most vocal about it. Remember “don’t trust anyone over 30”? How about The Who talking about “My Generation”? Now that we’re all in our 60’s and 70’s, it’s our turn to confront the challenges of aging and, once again, we are determined to experience it in our own way.

Although I’m sure there are plenty of people in my age group who are happy to spend their retirement playing golf or fishing (nothing wrong with that!), I have read interesting stories about people who are using retirement as a time in their lives when they can create a different lifestyle. Many people have chosen to start a small business after retiring, often completely different from the careers in which they worked for 30 or 40 years. Maybe for the first time in your adult life you’re free to explore interests for which you never had time. You might make a radical lifestyle change – perhaps you always wanted to live on a houseboat or maybe you’re fulfilling the dream you’ve had since you were 18 of traveling the country in an RV. I just read a story about a couple who spent a year visiting all 59 national parks!

Although I can’t say I have created a radically different or unique lifestyle in the way some people have, it is certainly different from the one I used to have. For one thing, the reduction in stress and responsibility has allowed me to change in some important ways. One change, which is a small blessing in itself, is a real understanding that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. I have accepted my current limitations and restrictions and I’m content. That’s a biggie for me because I’ve always been restless and thinking about the next “thing”. I’m not living an exciting, adventurous life but I appreciate the small blessings of being able to immerse myself in a good book, walk with Liberty, have lunch with a friend, take my Mom on a vacation, go to the beach, get away on my own for a few days and a myriad of other simple pleasures.

I started out 5 years ago with a long to-do list, which is still only half completed. It’s been a small blessing to find I don’t care about accomplishing the rest of the goals I set for myself back then! I’ve learned some things about myself and one of them is that I’m not ambitious enough to be a successful artist or author or to start a business, and that’s okay because an important part of my journey has been learning to accept myself. I no longer feel like I have to be accomplishing something important every day. There are places I’d like to visit, things I’d like to experience and a soul mate I hope to meet before I die, but I don’t have the anxious restlessness I once had about those things – and for a former chronic malcontent that’s no small blessing.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~E.M. Forster

Lake Hall Tallahassee 4-16

Liberty is thankful for the not so small blessing of encountering NO alligators during her recent visit to Lake Hall in Arthur B. Maclay Gardens and State Park in Tallahassee. 

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Stuff I Like- Part 4

Ocean dreaming 001An October morning at the beach!!

My tolerance for the heat and humidity of the summer months here in NE Florida has decreased over the past few years so I don’t go to the beach as much during those months as I used to but, the spring and fall are delightful. I especially love October and November and, during the years that I had a timeshare in St. Augustine Beach, I always went in late October/early November. The early mornings and nights are cool, the air during the day is warm but, not stifling, the sky is usually clear blue and there is almost always a pleasant breeze. Another bonus is that the beach is quiet in the fall because it is in between family vacation time and the arrival of the “snowbirds” so there are very few people around. I almost feel like the wide open space belongs to me. I live close to the beach, just a 10 minute drive, but my favorite beach is a few miles north of where I live and well worth the few extra minutes it takes to get there. Even the drive is a pleasure – an officially designated scenic highway that winds through a lush hammock, over an inlet, and offers beautiful unobstructed views of the ocean. A rare treat on the East coast.

I was waiting for a day with cooler temperatures and no rain in the forecast so I could put Liberty in the car and head for the beach and that day arrived this week. The timing was perfect because I had been feeling a little bit blue and I knew I needed to take what I call a “happiness action”. We got there and were walking along the shore well before 9 and it was a beautiful morning – I could feel my mood lift. Yes, I practice what I preach! I don’t wait for someone or something to make me happy – I find it for myself.

I have a 20′ retractable leash for Liberty that I only use when we go to the beach so she can run in and out of the ocean and chase the sandpipers. The first time I took her to the beach, just a couple of weeks after she came to live with me last April, she was afraid of the ocean. Every time a wave approached she ran the other way! I walked along the shore, where the water is shallow, and gently encouraged her to let the waves wash around her feet. Gradually, she realized the water could only reach as far as she allowed and that began the relationship she has with the ocean to this day – she loves to run in and out of the waves as they rush to the shore but she never lets them wash over her! It brings me great happiness to watch her play – her pure joy is contagious! She met a black Lab, who was also enjoying the ocean, and they ran around and leapt at each other for a few minutes while his owner and I laughed at their antics. She also met a nice little boy and an elderly man who stopped to greet her. Liberty is a social bridge for me and I often speak to people who I wouldn’t have met if I was alone. No wonder I refer to her as my “therapy dog”.

After our walk we enjoyed a drink and some snacks and then Liberty stretched out in the sand and watched the birds running along the shoreline and the people walking by. As I wrote in my journal, I kept pausing to gaze at the ocean and the blue sky and I thanked God over and over for such a beautiful day. All this beauty and happiness cost me nothing but the gas for my car! Makarios 🙂

We don’t make ourselves happy, but we can make choices that lead to happiness. ~Randy Alcorn

Fun in the ocean 10-15-15 beautiful morning at the beach 10-15-15

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Stuff I Like-Part 2

Simplicity copy

Simplicity. I like simplicity.

In relationships (romantic and otherwise):

I don’t like a lot of drama (or melodrama) or complications from either friends or lovers. I’m 64; I’ve done complicated and difficult. I’ve walked on enough eggshells. Now I want the simple, low stress of being with people who like and accept me as I am and for whom I feel the same. I like a shared sense of humor – you know, when explanations are unnecessary. I don’t like hidden agendas, ulterior motives, or deception. I don’t have the time or energy to figure out where you’re coming from. I don’t like bragging or self-aggrandizing. I like honesty, integrity and humility. I like people who understand the difference between sympathy and pity, understanding and judgment, analysis and criticism, and curiosity and intrusiveness.

I do my best to live by two maxims “say what you mean; mean what you say” and “live and let live”. Pretty simple.

In my home:

I don’t like clutter. I have a one car garage and I actually have room to keep my car in it. I’m not the type of person who would ever need to rent a storage unit. In decorating, I like simple lines and warm colors and not too many knick-knacks. Many years ago I read a quote by a famous designer (I can’t remember his/her name) “Only keep what you feel is functional, beautiful or of sentimental value” and I have followed that 99% of the time (there is always the odd item that I’m not quite sure what to do with!). I like to go through my belongings every couple of years and weed out anything that no longer fits one of those categories. It must be a zen thing because I always feel mentally lighter afterwards and, believe it or not, when my house is clean and uncluttered I actually feel cooler during the long, hot Florida summer.

In my personal “style” (I’m using the word “style” loosely here):

I live in northeast Florida where, most of the year, my wardrobe consists of shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, sneakers and flip-flops. In the cooler months I add jeans, sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts. I don’t like a lot of “frou-frou” – just plain, simple, comfortable styles. One of my favorite T-shirts has a pair of tiny flip-flops and the word “simplify” on the front, which I think kind of sums things up. I don’t like to get dressed up and, since retiring 4 years ago, I don’t have to! I wear whatever is easy and comfortable for ME.  So far, the only benefit I can see in getting older is that I am finally comfortable with who I am. I say, whoever you are, just embrace the things that make you unique and don’t change them for anyone. Now, that is simple.

In my attitudes about life:

Somewhere over the past few years, I was blessed with the gift of experiencing simple joy. I believe I got there through practicing gratitude. Gratitude is a conscious way of thinking; whereas, joy is an unbidden and uncontrollable spiritual experience. It is much harder to describe a feeling than a way of thinking but, I think there is a connection between these two. I think the active and consistent practice of gratitude will naturally create the right environment for experiences of joy. Unfortunately, many of us are too focused on chasing pleasure, especially when we’re young. Don’t misunderstand, I think pleasure is great and adds a lot to life but, it shouldn’t be confused with real happiness – and certainly not with joy. Pleasure brings a temporary feeling of happiness but when the pleasure ends so does the related happiness, which means you have to continually seek the next “pleasure fix” in order to experience the happiness again. Joy is a much deeper, more textured form of happiness; it will take root and it will expand your soul but, it is not affected by the presence or absence of pleasure. Pleasure can change the moment; joy can change your life.

It is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Sittin' on a dock of the bay

Sittin’ on a dock of the bay … (can you hear Otis whistling in your head?)

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Wolftrap Farm

early morning sun in my eyesLast week Liberty and I spent a few days at Wolftrap Farm, a 600 acre horse and cattle farm in the beautiful rolling hills of central Virginia. This was Liberty’s longest road trip so far – almost 12 hours in the car – and she was a little angel. She looked out of the windows, spent a lot of time napping on her bed and gave me no trouble at all. I have been blessed with another great little traveler and I’m so grateful for that.

The farm was beautiful and peaceful, the weather was perfect and the cottage was comfortable. There are two private “driveways” into the farm, each a mile long, and we walked both of them every morning. Our walk took us through wooded areas and past pastures with grazing horses and cattle, who watched us with mild curiosity. The silence was broken only by the sounds of the animals and birds and the only people I saw were the occasional farm worker. I live in an area where there are not many streetlights or other ambient light so I can see the stars but there is nothing like night in the country. When I turned the patio light off I was plunged into total darkness except for the light of the moon and I could see millions of stars in the velvet sky.

Liberty had never seen a horse before so she was scared at first but, after a couple of days, she got used to them and even got close enough to sniff the nose of a mare that stuck her head between the fence slats to greet her. Every morning and evening handlers walked horses past the cottage, no more than 10′ away from where we were sitting on the patio, to and from the barn and pastures and Liberty watched with great interest. I wondered what she was thinking – big dogs?

For many years I have wanted to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and I was finally able to do that. I toured the house and then strolled around the grounds. I liked looking through the windows of Jefferson’s study and seeing the same view he had when he looked up from his books.  Monticello means “little mountain” and the house is on top of that little mountain so there are beautiful views in every direction. Wolftrap Farm is about 30 miles from Monticello and was once part of James Madison’s estate, Montpelier. Madison and his wife, Dolley, were friends of Jefferson and frequent house guests at Monticello. In those days the 30 miles was a day’s journey! I learned that 4 of our first 5 presidents were from this area of Virginia. Whenever I visit a historic home I’m always struck by how quiet life must have been all those years ago. People entertained themselves in the evening with books, letter writing, musical instruments, handiwork, table games and the art of conversation. One of the lost arts, in my opinion.

I also visited Montpelier but didn’t tour the house because I had Liberty with me that day. We walked the footpaths that wind around the beautiful estate and stopped at the Madison family cemetery. I experienced the same feeling I’ve had so many times before while visiting an old cemetery – how fleeting life is. I wondered again what the point of all our joys, sorrows and struggles really is. That might sound sad or depressed but, it’s not. It actually serves to remind me that most of the things I worry about are not important. I like to be reminded of that from time to time.

It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read.  ~Thomas Jefferson

Liberty watches the "big dogs" walk by

Liberty watches the “big dogs” walk by

See my art and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Gratitude Journal – Chapter One

A Prayer for YouAlthough I have certainly felt gratitude many times in my life, I haven’t always lived with an attitude of gratitude. It really is quite different. I titled this post “Gratitude Journal – Chapter 1” because, even though I’ve written about gratitude in earlier posts on this blog, I’d like to share more in-depth thoughts about how cultivating an attitude of gratitude has helped me with so many things that I didn’t even realize were connected to gratitude. The things I have read have helped me so I’m hopeful that something I write will help someone else.

Somewhere during the last 15 or so years, when I was doing a lot of soul-searching I first read about living with an attitude of gratitude in a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer (I read many of his books so I don’t remember which one). This isn’t just sporadic thankfulness in response to good things that happen in your life – this is gratitude for life in general. It is even gratitude for challenges you have to face. It is actually a way of life. I was intrigued by this idea because I realized that most people I know are like me – grateful when something “good” happens or when we get something we wished for but then quickly moving on to the next shiny object. We give lip service to being thankful for our “blessings” but we don’t have deep, sustained feelings of gratitude.

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time in the present moment because our thoughts are always in the past or future and I became hyper aware of how much time I spent living in the future while reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now“. I was inspired by that book to try to change my way of thinking because I realized it was causing unhappiness and discontent. I learned that it is impossible (at least for me!) to always live in the present moment but focusing on gratitude is part of living in the present and can be a way to more contentment, peace of mind and even self-love. It dawned on me that cultivating genuine gratitude could be the antidote to my restless nature and the perfect balm for dealing with disappointment.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that it’s not easy to cultivate an attitude of gratitude when you’re used to always making plans for the “next thing” so I’ve had lots of stops, starts and detours on this particular journey. I spent 30+ years of my adult life being a goal-oriented planner at work and a restless malcontent in my personal life. I knew it would take a lot of conscious effort to change such a deeply entrenched way of thinking but, I wanted to be happier and feel more contentment so I took the challenge. I started small with a daily gratitude journal. Gradually, as I became more immersed in this “gratitude experiment”, I realized that I was even becoming kinder to myself and more comfortable with who I am. I was actually grateful for ME!

As you allow your thoughts to marinate in this warm bath of gratitude, you’ll start to feel the contentment seep into your pores. You’ll experience things in a new way. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude has led me to glorious moments of joy – not just pleasure or happiness, actual JOY. In future “Gratitude Journal” posts I’ll share some of those moments with you. Gratitude has helped me overcome times of grief, disappointment and loneliness and I believe it will help me deal with whatever hardships I may have to face in the future. That’s how much it has affected me.

I’m very grateful for all 70 followers of this blog! You are obviously individuals of great intelligence and excellent taste 🙂

“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.”   ~Neale Donald Walsch

Liberty & Mom Christmas 2014

Mom & Liberty – I’m so grateful

for my artwork and books visit www.lyndalinke.com

Stuff I Like: Part 1

Cook up something specialSince early childhood books and movies have been my favorite forms of entertainment and my escape to other worlds. I’ve never been athletic or interested in sports and, aside from chess and Trivial Pursuit, not much of a game player. I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon and writing stories as soon as I learned to write and, when I’m in the mood, those are still two of my favorite activities. I have a tendency to live in my own head and I don’t need a lot of socializing – in fact, too much socializing exhausts me – so it makes sense that I’m drawn to solo pursuits.

In 2010 I “cut the cable” and got a Roku, through which I stream three pay channels – Netflix (I also subscribe to their dvd plan), The Blaze, and Acorn TV – and also enjoy several free channels. I had an antennae installed on my house so I could continue to watch PBS but that has turned out to be unnecessary because PBS is now available online. If the reception is poor (which it often it is because of where I live in relation to the nearest signal) and I can’t watch Masterpiece on Sunday night, I just watch it on Monday on the free PBS channel on Roku. Life is good 🙂 I get to watch lots of good movies and TV series – a year later than the network but, still good! also I can binge watch on a rainy day 🙂

Description of my perfect evening: My dog, my cozy little house, ice cream and a good movie. Recently a movie called “Chef” became available for instant play on Netflix. I passed over it a few times because I’m not a “foodie”, I don’t watch food shows, and I thought it wouldn’t be interesting to me. I was so wrong!! One night when I was looking through the new releases I finally decided to watch “Chef”. I have now watched it three times – I invited Mom over to watch it because I knew she would enjoy it and I watched it another time alone. It is an adult movie (meaning it isn’t overly simplistic or full of lame sophomoric humor) but there is no violence, no sex or nudity, and no “political” message being crammed down your throat. There is quite a bit of cursing – the “F” word is used frequently – so, if you’re sensitive to that you might not like this movie but the characters and story are so good it’s worth a try.

Yes, food preparation and talk about food is a central theme because the main character is a chef but, it is about so much more. It is about a man who rediscovers his passion for life, a divorced father who learns how to connect with his son during a crazy road trip, and his experiences of true friendship, laughter and love along the way. It is a truly “feel good” story that lifted my spirit and made me happy. The music is so good that I even bought the sound track!

Watch “Chef”!! I think you’ll love it. Let me know 🙂

Liberty enjoys a cozy evening at home

Liberty enjoys a cozy evening at home

An Introverted Tale

A Star to DiscoverShe pulled the car into the garage and pressed the remote to close the door behind her. It always felt like she was closing out the world when that door rumbled down. She exhaled a deep sigh of sweet relief as she entered her peaceful home. Her dog was waiting for her as she entered the kitchen from the garage and greeted her with much tail wagging and soft cries of happiness. She placed her handbag on the counter and bent to pet her dog. She felt a comfort and happiness to be back in her “sanctuary” that would be hard to explain to anyone who didn’t share those feelings. She knew that many people were lonely and unhappy about living alone but she didn’t feel that way. She never had a problem spending time alone and, in fact, most of the things she enjoyed the most were solo activities like reading, drawing, writing, and listening to music. She had discovered in her later years that she even enjoyed traveling alone – no matter how much she liked someone, after a few days she craved solitude. She knew this was something about her that was hard for some people to understand. The past couple of weeks had been good, but also had depleted her energy reserves and she was looking forward to recharging her battery with alone time. Her best friend, who lived in another state, had visited for 3 days and it had been wonderful to spend time with her. Then she had enjoyed a vacation with her mother and, finally, that night she had attended a friend’s birthday party. She hadn’t really wanted to go but she had promised so she drove for more than 45 minutes in the pouring rain to her friend’s house. She enjoyed the first hour at the party but, making small talk with people was an exhausting experience for her and she had to force herself to stay an “acceptable” period of time before leaving. She realized that most people didn’t feel that way but she was used to living in a society where extroverts were in the majority and she often had to pretend to be one in order to get along. She changed into her pajamas, settled on the sofa and happily picked up the book she had left on the table a few hours earlier.

This little story is about someone who is known as an introvert – defined generally as one who is drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits – it is about me. Shyness is not the same as introversion, although the term is often used interchangeably. I admit I did struggle with shyness in many situations in the past but, I have overcome that and I am perfectly able to socialize when I want to. The difference now is that I often prefer not to. I know and accept myself much more than I did 15 or 20 years ago when I used to force myself into social situations on a regular basis because I believed there was something wrong with me if I didn’t so, I tried to “fit in”. To me, a “cocktail” party is like a holding cell – that doesn’t mean I can’t keep up my end of the small talk and even enjoy some of it, it just means I’m counting the minutes until I can escape. These days I’m not trying to prove anything to myself or anyone else so I stick with things I like, such as one-on-one conversations, small group gatherings, and lots of solo time. I like to visit historic sites and beautiful vistas – Las Vegas and cruises are not my style. I’m not a hermit, a “loner” or some other kind of defective personality and, in fact, I’m more empathetic and a much better listener than most extroverts I have known. I have a deep respect for my privacy and for the privacy of others. I’ve recently been reading a book called “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength” by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., that refreshingly validates all that and points out the many positive aspects of the introvert personality. I don’t feel the need to explain myself or make excuses anymore but I do wish I had read this book many years ago when I felt so often like a misfit – now I proudly and unashamedly declare that I am an introvert!

FYI, some famous introverts include Bill Gates, Thomas Jefferson, Julia Roberts, Clint Eastwood, Abraham Lincoln, Woody Allen, Carl Jung, and Jane Goodall. Surprisingly, many performers and public figures are introverts. We might think of introverts as librarians or writers but, in reality, they can succeed in almost any career as long as they are in tune with their need for solitude, thinking, and problem solving.

If you recognize yourself in anything I have written and have ever felt like a misfit because of it, I highly recommend that you read the above mentioned book and embrace the things that make you unique and special.  Trying to be something you are not is never sustainable – plus, it makes you unhappy! Once again, the bottom line is self-love.

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of  solitary contemplation

Stella enjoys a quiet moment of solitary contemplation

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions