Live the Life You've Dreamed Of Oct/Nov 2010

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. - John Barrymore

And what exactly would that life be? You wanted to be a rock star but the band never took off and you were resigned to play your guitar for those few who find you entertaining. You wanted to be the head of a Fortune 500 company traveling all over the world, but most of your customers live in rural Oregon and you travel between La Pine and Prineville. You wanted to be a well-paid, highly sought after motivational speaker but you find yourself in front of Rotary and Lions Clubs. You wanted to write the great American novel but your best literary achievement is writing your profile on match.com.

I wanted to be a spy traveling to exotic places for the CIA, changing the world one espionage after another. My sister wanted to be a real artist but she still buys paint by number from the craft store because she’s afraid of her own creativity. There are a ton of people out there still wondering why they didn’t fulfill their life dream. They work hard, they’re nearly as smart as the likes of Bill Gates, but life got in the way. We baby boomers are a generational tsunami, with 10,000 of us turning 50 each day, earning $2.4 trillion in annual income and owning 65 percent of the aggregate net worth of all U.S. households. 

We are the best educated, healthiest, and wealthiest generation ever to reach midlife and beyond.  We have myriads of self-help, motivational, inspirational books, speakers and CDs to help us achieve happiness. Everywhere we turn there’s the universe, the spiritual choices, the group hugs, the meditation, the cleansing of our souls all reaching out to help us through our new age influence. If we so choose we can live healthier, more active lifestyles than any generation before us. That’s if we choose of course, because there’s always the chance that we just get tired of it all and just sit there stuck in some self-absorbed misery.

We’ve also learned, of late, that just because we’re over 50 life doesn’t necessarily get easier. Boomers have found themselves out of work, out of money, out of a home and getting a divorce (as if getting older and taking care of aging parents wasn’t challenging enough). Some people who have lost just about everything have told me that it actually was a relief to start over….they uncovered the mind set that it could actually be quite exhilarating. Back to living the life of your dreams. You want to be a rock star? Probably not going to happen, but if you really want to play music for others then go out and find all those others guys who had the same dream….you’ll make great music together!

Your company isn’t a Fortune 500? Wow, you have a company and you’re actually paying the bills in this recession. I would say that’s a much bigger achievement than some highly funded corporate conglomerate. Motivational speaker? If you speak out anywhere on any subject and people listened to you, then you’ve accomplished so much more in your life than those who sit on the sidelines and don’t take action and don’t speak up.

One of the things I know for sure, is that if you want to be a writer, then you have to make it happen….write and write and write some more. You think you suck, then get a writing coach. At least have someone read it, perhaps you don’t suck at all (did someone respond to your match profile?). There’s little chance that I’ll get to be a spy…..but at least I get to write all this gobbledygook and hopefully help you find your own version of espionage. As for my sister: I am buying her some real paint and canvas today!

I leave you with a quote from John Updike (1932–2009 American novelist, poet, short story writer, art and literary critic): From infancy on we are all spies; the shame is not this but that the secrets to be discovered are so paltry and few.

For the Love of a Good Physician Aug/Sept 2010

by PAMELA HULSE ANDREWS

“Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing.” Voltaire (French philosopher/author 1694-1778)

Even if you have the best health insurance money can buy your biggest medical challenge often is the service and advice you receive from your physician and other medical staff. It is especially frustrating when you have something wrong with you and no one seems to know what to do about it. Their usual answer is to throw pills at you. In America we have ample choices of medicines to take for whatever ails us and too many times we take these drugs with little foresight into what is causing the problem in the first place nor to their potential side effects.

If you have excellent medical coverage then all of these pills are usually paid for by the insurance company. However, many people find that their coverage (if they have any at all) will only take care of a portion of the cost and some drugs can be very expensive. If you are of the Anton Chekhov (Russian playwright) philosophy whereby “doctors are the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas doctors rob you and kill you too,” you might find my little story hard to believe. However, I want to share a situation recently that happened to me giving me hope for how we are treated as patients.

Lately I have had slightly elevated blood pressure (no wonder, I am a business owner in a downward spiraling economy, need I say more?). I went to my regular medical clinic for this problem (but will withhold names in this editorial to protect their reputations). The first doctor took my pressure and gave me some pills….never discussed the possibility of the stress level or that I might try more exercise, get more rest or change my diet. Just gave me the prescription and sent me home. The pills caused: swelling of legs, dizziness, dry mouth and a bad attitude. I threw them out and derived a plan to exercise more strenuously. That didn’t work, so I went back and saw another doctor who I explained to that I had a high deductible on my insurance and wasn’t interested in buying a lot of pills that don’t work. She decided to try a diuretic, which were pretty inexpensive.

However, the very next day she called and said that I shouldn’t take them they might be bad for my kidney (I only have one). Now here’s the story: she said that since I had already picked them up and paid for them that she would have an envelope with the cash in it for the pills waiting for me at her office. Are you kidding me? This is so way beyond expectations that I think I was in shock. Not only did she have the envelope waiting with the money in it but she wrote me a note apologizing and saying “It is a pleasure working with you and as I said on the phone I want to be respectful of your resources.” Many of my experiences with the medical field have not necessarily been nightmares (they’ve saved my life a couple of times), but most are hardly worth remembering. We regret the really bad ones, but rarely do we get to have a huge cup of kindness delivered to us by a doctor.

The world has become a very cynical place to live…challenging, frustrating and suspicious. So when someone goes far beyond expectations and takes the time to touch your life even in the smallest of ways, embrace it. And if you get the chance, pay it forward. Tony Robbins says that life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.

No Regrets. Good or Bad. Either Way It's an Experience June/July 2010

I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say. ~ Ingrid Bergman (Swedish born American film and stage actress 1915-1982)

One of England’s poet laureates, Alfred Lord Tennyson, said: It’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. A poetic, tragic flare perhaps, but treading into unsure territory is a life filled with intention. Knowing that you will have experienced a full life no matter the outcome is a satisfying notion. When is it too late to test more waters, to climb another mountain, to learn new skills, jump out of an airplane, create a new business, go on a date? There’s always time to take a leap from life’s ordinary stuff. You can achieve greatness at any age.

More importantly there’s always time to add new experiences to your time on earth. Good, bad or just different. There are two possible actions to take with your life: you can either do a certain thing, or not. Either way you have the potential for regret. So you might as well just do it. It isn’t about how we might measure up with others. It should be about our own assessment of our financial, social, spiritual, creative and professional worth.

As we live longer, healthier lives, we can take a different kind of measurement of passages. We don’t have to quit work at 65 and collect social security and play cards each day. We can, certainly, if that has been our life dream and we choose to do just that. But our world will look different if we assess what it is we want to do and set out on a path to do everything on the list. Let’s say you’re 70 and want to be a lawyer. Seems a little late in life to accomplish that task, but you just may have another 20 years left, certainly enough time to go to law school.

And so what if you happen to drop dead in the middle of it all, what a great time you had getting that late in life education. You will have gone back to school smarter than younger would-be lawyers attending law school with you. You’ll be a whole lot wiser than when you were in school the last time. Perhaps you believe you already accomplished a great deal — wealth, health and happiness, family, spiritual saving and a great philanthropist as well. You were an early bloomer and now all you have to do is write your memoirs and play golf. So write them and then join the Peace Corps (Lillian Carter did just that at age 68).

Perhaps you think you didn’t accomplish anything at all — work, children, marriage — yes, you did it, but it wasn’t quite enough. Then perchance you’re a late bloomer like Jessica Tandy collecting her first Oscar at 80 or Jerry Wehman of Florida bowling a perfect 300 game at 81 or Maude Tell of California getting her first driver’s license at 91 or Benjamin Spock getting arrested for demonstrating against the Vietnam War at the age of 83. Look at how Betty White reinvented herself and she’s 88 years young!

Creating something new and meaningful seems a promising step for those first retired at 65 (Maggie Kuhn didn’t establish the Gray Panthers until she was 66 and Benjamin Franklin didn’t invent the bifocal eyeglasses until he was 79). I am reminded as I write this of Dr. Ron Carver, who retired as a successful physician here in Central Oregon and led the way to establish the Volunteers in Medicine. What a superb, generous thing to do with your so-called retirement days. If the entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t suit you, surely the spirit of volunteerism can be inspiring. There’s much to do that gives you that lasting feeling of accomplishment.

Just get out there and do it. Remember Nelson Mandela wasn’t released from prison in South Africa after 27 years of incarceration until he was 71. He received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize when he was 75. Perhaps the best thing of all in case someone forgot to tell you — the older you get the more you can get away with doing something out of the ordinary. What fun is that? Henry David Thoreau said to make the most of your regrets: Never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live a fresh.

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