Tag Archives: featured

Tips for Adulthood: Five Innovative Trends in Aging

aging

Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of attending The Longevity Forum’s annual conference in November. The event brings together leading figures from the academic, investment and non-profit sectors to think about how enable people to live longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives. This year, the conference was held virtually and spanned an entire “longevity week.” Here are five things I learned about innovative trends in aging:

Read the rest of this post over on the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing blog

Dreams of My Mother

suitcase

Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

I had a vivid dream the other night. I was preparing to teach a class, but I couldn’t find my notes. As the time for the class drew nearer, I got increasingly stressed that I’d lost my window to prepare.

The Interpretation of dreams

In and of itself, that dream isn’t all that unusual. I constantly have dreams that I’m taking tests I’ve not studied for, or have been cast in plays for which I haven’t learned the lines.

But in this particular dream, my notes were buried in a large suitcase filled with my late mother’s belongings. And every time I tossed out one item – her old raincoat, a set of sheets, a painting – another item would appear.

As the class I was meant to be teaching got closer and closer, more and more things from my mother’s past appeared. It got to the point where I couldn’t empty the suitcase quickly enough. I never found my notes, I missed my teaching deadline, and I had to cancel the class.

Avoiding Sadness

I’m a big believer that bad dreams can be good for you. So I knew that this dream was trying to tell me something. After my mother passed away in June, I went back home to the States and emptied her apartment. But why was I dreaming about that now?

When I described the dream to my husband, he said, “It’s obvious. You’ve been working really hard lately. And you’re using work to stave off sadness about your mother’s death.”

He had a point. No sooner had I managed to achieve a modicum of balance in my work-life this summer, a tsunami of work hit in early September that has yet to abate. I’ve long used busyness as a tool for staving off all sorts of negative feelings and anxieties, so why not sadness over my mother’s passing?

You can’t box grief

But I think there’s something else going on in this dream as well. As we edge towards the six month mark of my mother’s death, I’ve begun to worry: Will I forget her? A lot of this has to do with the fact that – because of the pandemic – we’ve still not managed to have a proper memorial service to celebrate her life.

Back in June when she died, my siblings and I optimistically thought we might manage a service by Christmas. Then, Easter. But with the latest news reports around vaccines, I’m now thinking it will realistically be next summer, earliest.

And because of this delay, I’ve found myself wondering lately if maybe we shouldn’t opt for an online memorial service, as so many others have done. I raised this with one of my brothers the other day, who instantly killed the idea. He’d like to do it in person. And in talking it through with him, I realized that I would too.

What I came to realize was that planning the Zoom funeral was my way of ensuring that I didn’t forget her. But as my dream reminds me: I don’t need a funeral to remember my mother. She’s already here. Pictures of her are strewn across my house. I wear her jewelry and read her books. And if I ever get so busy that I stop processing those reminders, she will come back to me in my dreams, to remind me that she’s still here.

So perhaps the dream was a reminder that you can’t box grief. You can try to set it aside, but it will always pop back up – Mary Poppins like.

Thank Goodness.

This post originally appeared on Sixty and Me.

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons to Keep Walking

walking autumn
Image: Photo by Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash

On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

As we in the UK enter our second lockdown, I am revisiting some of the coping strategies I developed during the first lockdown. In addition to cooking more and doing micro workouts, I’ve returned to my daily walks with a vengeance.

Even if you’re not currently in lockdown, here are 5 reasons to keep walking as you age:

1.Walking spurs creativity. Research suggests a link between walking and creativity (There’s even a brainstorming technique called brainwalking. Can’t wait to try it!) But walking also teaches you how to be an observant student of other people. Writer and long-time public radio host Garrison Keillor once wrote that “A long walk also brings you into contact with the world…It isn’t about you and your feelings, so much as about what people wear and how they talk. The superficial is never to be overlooked.” Simply put, when you go outside you notice things. And, as the late, great Nora Ephron put it, “Everything is copy.”

2. Walking keeps your brain sharp. Walking also increases concentration and energy levels. One study suggested that walking three times a week over six months led to improved reaction times for those suffering from vascular dementia. Walking is also thought to have a positive effect on memory and problem-solving skills for children under 18.

3.Walking is good for your mental health. New research in the journal Emotion suggests that taking “awe walks” – i.e. walks that involve both physical vastness and novelty – can significantly boost positive emotions, especially among older adults. Participants in this study reported feeling more socially connected, more grateful, more compassionate, and more joyful. And this boost in “pro-social emotions” carried through into everyday life.

4. Walking lets you discover your neighborhood. My New Year’s Resolution to “walk without purpose” has borne fruit. During the first lockdown, I took long walks around parts of my neighborhood I’d never visited before. I discovered streets with names like “Malcolm X Way” and “Pablo Neruda Close.” I saw hand-made tributes to the British National Health Service (NHS) in people’s windows. I even found a new coffee joint and developed an adult crush on the 27 year old Russian-Canadian barista.

5. Walking gives you time for podcasts. As someone who came to podcasts belatedly, walking has been my friend. Because I don’t own a car – and because I’m not currently commuting – I now have more time than ever before to sample a range of podcasts. This is great for my newsletter – (I recommend one podcast a month) – and it’s great for me. I can stay across everything from US politics to new forms of storytelling to helpful writing tips. It’s been a huge boon to my life.

How about you? Do you walk more now? What does walking do for you?

A Salute to my Virtual Community of Global Voting Volunteers

community

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

My first experience with an online office was back when I worked as a journalist for Politics Daily, a daily new magazine run by AOL. At the time, not having a bricks and mortar office was a fairly radical idea (Remember those days? Sigh.). But with a global team spread out across the US and Europe, our Editor-in-Chief decided that we could make it work as a virtual newsroom.

She was right. Every day, we logged on to our assorted shared spaces – which in those days consisted of email, twitter, and our content management system (CMS) platform. We talked about the news. We pitched stories. We shared jokes. Over time, we traded personal updates.

After two short years, AOL purchased The Huffington Post and that was the end of our lovely journalistic experiment. What I missed most when we closed that publication down – more than the fast pace of a newsroom or the thrill of the odd byline that went vital – was the camaraderie. During those two years, I formed some really close bonds with my fellow writers and editors. And while I knew we’d all stay in touch through Facebook and the odd work gig – and we have – I also knew it wouldn’t be quite the same.

I feel the same way now. Since mid-March, I’ve worked with a group of global volunteers whose job it has been to register Americans living overseas to vote. In previous years, Vote from Abroad conducted a fairly straightforward Get Out the Vote mission through registration tables at assorted conferences, town halls and universities scattered across the globe. But this year, amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, getting out the vote was not so simple. The entire operation had to shift online.

Which meant that everything had to be created from scratch – the entire communications plan, as well as it’s implementation. I won’t even pretend to take credit for that. We had some absolutely fantastic volunteers who took the lead – some of whom even chose to work part-time in 2020 to free up time for the cause.

As with my stint at Politics Daily, over time, this “job” wove itself into my daily life. For the last several months, I’ve been dipping and out of our online platforms – Slack, Canva, and a gazillion different google docs and sites – several times a day. Every morning, I’ve sat down and manned the Twitter account, posting our content and fielding questions from voters abroad.

Every week, without fail, the global communications team has met up virtually on a Tuesday evening to hash out our strategy for the coming week/month. When we started, the whole thing was literally a work in progress. But over time, it took shape and by October, we’d tripled the amount of visits to our website over 2016.

Those meetings officially end this evening. And even if there is a prolonged recount and this whole thing drags on beyond election night, our work is basically done. Many of us will carry on and collaborate on other aspects of voting education and mobilization overseas. Lord knows there will always be more elections.

But the energy and purpose that fills an election – especially THIS election during THIS year – will end. And while I’ll certainly welcome the time that frees up in my calendar to devote to other things, I will also be sad. I’ll miss the jokes, I’ll miss the community, and I’ll miss the feel of working towards something larger than myself.

With the onset of the pandemic, there’s been a debate over whether or not virtual communities can be as powerful as real ones. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know that this virtual community rocked.

So here’s to a job well done, guys. It’s been a great ride.

The Value of Paying It Forward

I, You, Me, We Group Silhouette by Geralt via Pixabay

I got a call the other day from a friend who’s looking to change careers in midlife. Knowing that I was a fellow traveler, she wanted to set up a time for us to talk so that I could give her some advice.

I probably get a call like that at least once a month. And I always take them. I usually follow up those conversations with book and podcast recommendations. I also suggest exercises that can help inch them towards their ideal day.

Finders Fees

Someone once suggested that I start charging for those services. After all, I’m serving as a quasi-career coach. But that thought has never even occurred to me.

For starters, they’re friends. And friends don’t charge friends for advice. But I feel the same way about finders fees. Clients call me fairly regularly for names of people who can provide this or that service. Whenever that happens, I always provide the names of colleagues whom I know, trust and can do the work.

The last time I did this, the colleague I recommended asked me how much of a cut I’d like for sending business his way. I said “nothing.”

What goes around comes around

Call me naive. But I’m of the “What goes around, comes around” school of thought. If I ever needed advice from one of the friends I routinely advise on career change, I’m confident they would return the favor.

This happened just the other day. A sticky situation had presented itself at work. So I called a friend who ran his own consulting business for 25 years and asked him how he’d manage it. He patiently spent at least an hour on the phone with me, carefully walking me through a series of scenarios.

Unbeknownst to him, his daughter called me shortly thereafter to help her rewrite her cover letter and CV. I readily obliged. To my way of thinking, there’s a certain reciprocity there.

Ditto those colleagues I’m tossing work to every so often, without expectation of a finder’s fee. I fully expect that at some point, someone will offer them a professional opportunity that’s not in their wheelhouse. Or that they’re simply too busy to take on. And when that happens, they’ll think of me.

And even if they don’t refer me work, someone else in my professional circle will. I’m a big believer in this concept of “paying it forward.” It refers to a situation where the beneficiary of a good deed repays the kindness to others, instead of to the original benefactor. It’s another way of saying “what goes around comes around.” Where my work is concerned, I fully believe that in some larger freelance eco-system cosmos, it all evens out.

Networking as We Age: The Power of Altruism

To me, that’s why networking is useful, particularly as we age. It’s not just that we know more people who can advise us professionally – the proverbial “dinner table of confidantes” I’ve written about before. It’s that you can help a wider circle of people.

As Jonathan Rauch notes in his brilliant book, The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 – as we age, our brains are wired to be more altruistic. We possess a much greater ability to re-direct our focus away from ourselves and towards our community. That’s also the message in another wonderful book called The Go-Giver. Its basic premise is that you don’t succeed in life because you take more away from other people; you succeed because you give back.

To my mind, that’s a wonderful feeling – to be able to share one’s expertise and, in turn, to learn from others. How about you? When you give a referral, do you charge a finder’s fees? Do you ever give free advice? And how does it feel?

This post originally appeared on Sixty and Me.

Five Things I’ve Learned about Overseas Voting

Delia Voting From Abroad
Delia Voting From Abroad
Me, voting from abroad

When I first got involved as a volunteer for Vote from Abroad, I did it mainly so that I could give back. But seven months into the wild ride that this 2020 American electoral season has been, I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about how the system works for those of us living overseas.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned about voting overseas:

Read the rest of this over on the Vote from Abroad blog

Getting Toned in Your 50s

workout
workout

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

“You’re thin, but you’re flabby.”

So spoke my 16 year-old daughter when we went on a beach vacation this summer.

She was referring particularly to my arms. After years of running, my legs are decently toned. But even after I replaced running with swimming several years back, my arms still look like some sort of hastily improvised, white surrender flag: long sticks with loose marshmallow-like blobs of flesh swinging off them.

“You ought to do Chloe Ting,” she suggested.

“Who’s Chloe Ting?”

Her eyes widened. For those not in the know, Chloe Ting is an online workout sensation who rose to fame during lockdown for her short, digestible workouts designed to “shred” whatever it is that needs shredding – abs/thighs/arms.

When I first started doing Chloe Ting in the late summer, I had a lot of time on my hands. I like trying new things and thought: Why not?

Now that I’m a good deal busier, however I’m finding them a great way to sneak in a bit of exercise. Because here’s the thing about Chloe Ting. (Surely, I’m not the first person to come up with that line…). Her workouts are bite-sized. They last 10 to 15 minutes, max. Because they’re so short, I can sprinkle them into my day whenever I wish to take a break. Which is a great thing when you’re working mostly from home because – let’s face it. There are only so many times per day you can visit your area of refuge.

The other reason I like Chloe Ting is her personality. I find most fitness instructors repellant. They’re too intense and hardcore, especially for someone like me who is not naturally athletic. Chloe is jolly. She does these fun little dance moves at the end of each session. She exhorts us all to “smash that ‘Like’ button” if we appreciate her workouts. She also has a full, powerful, beautiful body and seems comfortable in her skin.

Most important of all, I feel stronger and healthier now that I’m doing these micro-workouts. I also have a lot more energy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Michelle Obama. I never will be and I don’t care. But who knows? One of these days I might even impress my daughter…

How to Inch Towards Your Ideal Day

inchworm
Inchworm via Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, back when I was contemplating a change in careers, I did an exercise where I described my “ideal day.” My description basically reads as follows: I spend my mornings writing, followed by some other, related creative activity: podcasting, giving a talk or interview, or attending a conference. The afternoons are devoted to a job that I love that brings home the bacon.

When friends call now – as they often do – to tell me that they’re tired of their job/industry/routine/life – I often begin by asking them to describe their ideal day. What I haven’t shared with them is that while my own description sits above my desk to remind me of my goals, I’ve not yet managed to achieve them. Most days, I write for an hour in the early morning and then do “real work” for the rest of the day. Sometimes, I start at 5 a.m. to squeeze it all in.

That changed this summer. With a bit more time on my hands, I slowly began to inch myself closer to realizing my ideal day. This didn’t happen magically; it was deliberate. Here are three changes I instituted that helped:

Saying No

One of the main upsides to running your own business is that you get to maximize the activities you like and minimize the ones you don’t. Otherwise, why not just go work for someone else who tells you how to spend your time?

Now that my business is up and running, I am fortunate to have a high number of repeat clients.  This means that I can spend less time selling and more time doing what I love – which is the design and delivery of workshops and coaching.

So I made a conscious choice this summer to considerably reduce the amount of business development that I do. Once I let go of cold calls, in particular, I suddenly had a lot more time in my day to devote to other things. Learning how to say “No” – as much to myself, as well as to others who were asking me to sell for them – was vital to this shift in behavior.

Taking Project Management Seriously

The second change I implemented was to get much smarter about managing my workload. I do a lot of work with universities, and the autumn tends to be my busiest time of the year for that work. So as the my calendar for the next few months begins to fill up, I am making sure to adhere to one of the fundamental principles of project management – which is to always work backwards from your deadlines.

The basic idea here is quite simple:  as soon as you have a deadline, work backwards so that you know exactly how much time you need allocate to that project each month/week/day etc. to hit it. As I tell my students, one important corollary to this old time management chestnut is to be sure that you block out your calendar to prepare for these deadlines. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself committing time to other projects and before you know it, you’ll be completely over-committed and stressed out.

It’s really hard for me to adhere to this principle, because my instinct is to always say “yes” and take on more work. But creating space to get “enough” work done and respecting that space is the only way to allocate time for other things you really value, like family, writing and exercise.

Embracing a Portfolio Mindset

I’ve written a lot about how I’ve embraced a portfolio career in later life. But a portfolio career is much more than a variety of different revenue streams. It’s also a mindset.

A portfolio mindset means that when you’re doing something that is part of your portfolio but not necessarily an income-earner – in my case, writing and volunteer work fall into this category – you don’t berate yourself endlessly when you’re spending time on those activities.

This was an incredibly hard transition for me to make. I’m very rule-bound. So if I decide that I will only spend one hour writing a day and eight hours “doing real work,” it’s really hard for me to break out of that routine.

But with more time on my hands this summer – largely due to Covid and its impact on my work – I found that I was better able to use my time to do a range of things that matter to me – even if I wasn’t earning money from them. The trick wasn’t finding the time. It was there. The trick was to re-frame that time as valuable and useful.

Writing with the wrong hand

All of which is a long way of saying that this summer I practiced what I call “writing with the wrong hand.” This is my shorthand for doing some things even when – and often especially when – they don’t feel comfortable.

My hope is that if I practice hard enough, some of these transitions will begin to feel routine. And then I will be that much closer to becoming my future self.

This blog originally ran on Sixty and Me.

How To Work With The British

british weather
Image: British Weather by Hakan Dahlstrom via Flickr

I’ve lived in the UK for 14 years and now hold dual American and British citizenship. While I’ve not yet braved the wilds of the famously challenging UK driving test, I’ve gotten to the point where England’s 4 pm winter nightfall no longer fazes me.

But while it’s one thing to adjust to life in the UK, it’s another thing altogether to adjust to the work environment here. If you’re a newly minted American working over here, here are five things you need to know about working with the British:

Read the rest of this post over on the Clearwater Advisers website

Tips for Adulthood: Create an Image File

leather jacket

Photo by Yehor Milohrodskyi on Unsplash

On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

I’m a great fan of decluttering. On a therapeutic level – and especially if you’re in the midst of a life transition – it feels cleansing to shed something. On a practical level, when you declutter, you also discover things wonderful things you’d forgotten about entirely.

When I was clearing out my own stuff recently I happened upon a folder that I didn’t recognize at first. It was entitled “Image Folder,” and it took me a minute or two to clock what it was.

Back when I took some time off to re-think my life a few years back (Chapter 326c), I assiduously tackled Julia Cameron’s The Artists’s Way as a tool for getting in touch with my creative self. Among the many techniques Cameron advocates for igniting your creativity, one that I’d completely forgotten about was her suggestion to create an image file:

“Start an Image File: If I had either faith or money I would try…List five desires. When you spot them, clip them, buy them, photograph them, draw them, collect them somehow. With these images, begin a file of dreams that speak to you. Add to it continually for the duration of the course.”

Here are five dreams that jumped out of my own image file:

a. Write and perform. Not surprisingly, my file contained several images of pens and microphones. This was clearly a nod to my desire to write and perform more. But there’s also a photo in there of someone jumping really high on a trampoline. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what that symbolized. And then I realized that it was an exhortation to have fun and take more risks. Or at least that’s how I interpret it now. That’s exactly what I’ve started doing with my new memoir writing project, which is all about family.

b. Travel and explore. Also unsurprisingly, the file contained several photos of assorted travel destinations. Some were of your proverbial sandy beach, but others showed a dense wood and an English stately home. When we first moved to England 14 years ago, I dragged my young kids to countless stately homes (think Downton Abbey) for tours of the houses and grounds. I believe that this image, in particular, was a reminder to “Be British” – a New Year’s resolution I set years ago to get to know my second home country better.

c. Be more fashionable. Don’t get me wrong. Most days I still amble about looking like a graduate student who is 5 minutes shy of eating her next Stouffer’s frozen pizza. Interestingly, however, my image file also contained a surprisingly high number of photos of lithe women wearing long, flowing blouses and – in one instance – a super-cool black leather jacket. Interestingly, there was also a picture of jewelry in there that looked exactly like the necklaces I’ve subsequently inherited from my mother.

d. Invest more time in cooking. One of the more surprising photos in the file – for anyone who knows me well – was picture of a bunch of spices. During that sabbatical year I took off to kick-start my career, I started investing more time in cooking. Among other things, cooking sated my inner project manager. Because I wasn’t working, I needed an outlet for that side of my personality. Once I settled into my new career as a communications consultant, however, the cooking goal fell somewhat to the wayside. But I’ve returned to it during lockdown. The new rule is that I make only three meals a week, and the other three members of my family each have to contribute one of their own. (The seventh night we do takeout, per the Lord’s Commandment that you have one day of rest.) We mainly draw on the New York Times Five Weeknight Dishes for inspiration. Not surprisingly, we are eating a lot better now.

e. Drink better beer. I was far from shocked to discover a photograph of a large glass of beer. In the immortal words of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, “I like beer.” In the years since I’ve become a lightweight in the drinking department, I’ve become a real connoisseur of low-alcohol beers (which I define as beer with an APV under 4%, but most people classify as under 3%.) That may sound wimpy, but I live within spitting (stumbling?) distance of a veritable beer emporium which houses some 400 plus types of beer. (I choose my neighborhoods well.) And in recent years, there’s been an explosion of high-end, low-alcohol beers from which to choose.

What made me so happy about discovering this file was that I feel that in the three years since I made it, I’ve moved forward on all five of the dreams captured in those images. It’s still a work in progress, but I see all of this as part and parcel of moving towards my future self.

So this week’s challenge is to go out and collect images that inspire you to be your future self. Tell me what you find in the comments section…