Category Archives: New Creativity At 60-plus

Reinventing Retirement [video]

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS OF HOW TO BOOK YOUR PLACE ON REINVENTING RETIREMENT

Brilliant – I have managed to complete one of my resolutions for this year in the nick of time! I’ve been wanting to add video to Beyond 60 ever since it was born, but the challenge has been considerable.

To be honest, it took 6 months to purchase a tripod, and another two (and some help) to work out how to open and adjust it. Then it was a plunge into the mysteries of iMovie, and from there YouTube, clicking and cursing my way to getting the darned thing edited and uploaded. Machines and I do not get on…

Not to mention the whole business of recording a video – those moments gazing in horror at my first efforts – do I really look like that? Sound like that?

Seems I do, and as there is never any point in going for perfection, so this rendering will hit the spot just fine.

Welcome to my little video. I hope you’ll enjoy all 1 minute and 5 seconds of it, and if you’re in or near Norwich, you’ll be interested in coming on Reinventing Retirement, which is going to be a whole LOT of fun! If you’re tempted, do book now, as 19 January is not far away…

CLICK FOR FULL DETAILS OF HOW TO BOOK YOUR PLACE ON REINVENTING RETIREMENT. 

 

Reinventing Retirement

Isn’t it time that retirement was reinvented? The very word, ‘retirement’, has such echoes of stepping out of the mainstream of life, into the slippers of decline.

I’ve never wanted to define myself as retired,  and tell people that I’m ‘on open-ended sabbatical’.  Sounds like more fun, eh?

So many people I’ve talked to lately are mulling over their options for life with less work. Stop completely? Carry on part-time? Do something else that looks like work? Or looks nothing like work? Go on a jag of volunteering? Invent a totally new way of being? Bits of all the above?

It’s confusing, interesting, exciting!

The question underlying all that mulling, is this: Who will I become, when I’m no longer Working Me?

This 6-part course sets out to explore that question, and many more.

Starting on Friday 19 January 2018 we’ll meet monthly at the Yoga Tree in Norwich to play with ideas, using all sorts of ways into and around the big questions that come with this new phase of life that is so, so full of potential.

Intrigued? Then please, join us. I’d love to see you there. All details are on the flyer above.

The Power of Empowerment

I had a beautiful experience of being empowered today.

I’d been grappling with an app, trying to design a flyer. Patience is not my strong suit and before long I was ready to chuck the phone out of the window and burst into tears.

Then I remembered that someone I know uses this app, so I asked her for help.

What she did was put the phone in my hand and talk me through how the app works, letting me click and swipe to make it all happen.

‘It takes a few moments…’ she said, when I wailed ‘it isn’t working…’

‘Don’t be afraid of it…’ she added, when my finger was hovering anxiously over the screen.

At the end she said, ‘Ok, now do everything we just did and design me a flyer with black lettering that says Autumn Happiness, and save it to Facebook’.

Gulp. But I did it, as she watched, and reminded and finally applauded!

What she didn’t do through all this was make me feel incompetent or stupid. She didn’t show me what to do, she guided me to do it for myself. She stayed patient and calm.

Result, I felt empowered and excited, with a new skill under my belt. And a lesson learned, in how to best help anyone in future who ever wants to learn from me.

Flyer design, anyone? Let me help you…

 

Reflections on One Year of Blogging

Blogging after 60

Reading my own blog is so surprising

Twelve months ago, Beyond 60 was born. What an interesting year it’s been.

Blogging Changes You

Who knew, that blogging changes your mind, and your life, in such subtle and delightful ways? Not me.

All small happenings and observations suddenly become potential blog posts.

A happy interlude in the garden, 10 minutes spent gazing into the cat’s luminous green eyes, frustration at the never-ending To Do list, a chance remark heard on the radio – it’s fodder.

I can while away hours composing trenchant and witty posts in my head (where, where?) – ah well, most of them don’t quite get written, but they do hang around, and gently nudge my thoughts and actions in refreshing new directions.

Getting Results

As far as numbers go, think small. A couple of posts a month. A handful of followers (not just my kith and kin). A few thrilling upward blips in the traffic stats, when a post was shared on Facebook and the hordes arrived…and left again.

It’s all good. I know that people read, because people comment. I have a feeling of an embryonic community.

Did I Really Write This?

Choosing topics has turned out to be a gut thing. On a day when there’s a chance to write, it’s whichever nebulous idea floats to the forefront that makes it to the page.

Oddly, when I look back it’s as if someone else wrote the posts. A wise person, who does interesting things and seldom upsets anyone, or herself. I’d like to be her, but it’ll take a while.

The most fun and the least predicted bit has been gravitating from pretty photos, to illustrating with a pin woman who lives in a collaged house. For someone who failed O-level Art at school, this is truly wonderful. Pin lady is out of proportion, wonky and hard to fathom, but she does the job and I just love spending time on her.

Feedback Good and Not So Good

What do people think of my blog? Immodestly, I might quote some praise (hell, why not): Love this gentle, beautiful and vivid description of your day. Thank you, kind reader.

Ruefully, let me share the views of the thumbs-downers: I don’t like this kind of thing and I probably won’t read it again. That is telling me. How about this:  It’s very ‘I-orientated’ isn’t it…?

Yes, it is. But if I can’t write as ‘I’ at 60+ then when, oh when?

My gremlins have enjoyed inflicting massive attacks of self-doubt ‘Joan Bakewell wouldn’t like your blog, it isn’t political enough. Do you know nothing of current affairs, Lightweight?’ ‘Virginia Woolf would be underwhelmed.’  ‘The woman over the road will think you’re daft.’ And so on. Fortunately, I am going deaf.

It has taken TIME in shedloads and has been a work in itself to stay clear of the ‘Should’s’ – you should post weekly, ok fortnightly, monthly, regularly. Fact is, I can’t. Posting whenever has to be good enough.

Though it hasn’t turned out like I thought, it has brought me a whole lot of satisfaction and great new people, not just those who follow Beyond 60, but those who’ve read and commented on my guest posts for Margaret Manning’s remarkable Sixty and Me.

Happy Birthday, Beyond 60!

A blog is a project, and a baby, and a creative work. It needs time, thought, polish, love. And more time.

I’m setting a few birthday desires for Year 2 of Beyond 60.

Be briefer
Be funnier
Keep on with pin lady
No self-flagellation please
Remember poet Mary Oliver’s profound advice: Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.

Don’t you just love that?

It’s in that spirit I wish my beauteous blog, Beyond 60, a very Happy Birthday, and offer it the gift of doing the best I can do to help it grow, using whatever time and energy I have available, no more, no less.

Dear blog, continue to flourish.

Why play a musical instrument? Because it feels so good…

 

I’m not going to tell you that I play the flute to stave off dementia, keep my brain cells alive, or because I was inspired by some internet list of Things to do when you’re over 60 which always seem to feature ’Play a musical instrument’.

No, I choose to grapple with a 2-foot long tube of metal equipped with a lot of holes and a mouthpiece so badly designed it takes a week before a beginner can get a single note out of it, because of the amazing feelings I get from playing it.

There’s a delicious excitement, which starts in the pit of the stomach, and tingles down the spine. It’s usually momentary, and doesn’t happen that often, but it is just delightful. I call it ‘that feeling’ to myself, and I’m always hoping for it in any rehearsal. It’s most likely to hit me when I’m playing in an orchestra for a bar or two everything comes together and my puny effort becomes part of something much, much bigger. That’s making music.

Then there’s the adrenalin-boosting thrill where I actually feel my heart beating faster in a section where I’m waiting to put in a flutey ‘peep’, off the beat, one note repeated, getting louder and louder as the orchestra build up to some kind of orgasm underneath me – whoa, steady on, but it really does have that quality of growing excitement, being swept along and just having to do that peep, peep, peep in the right place, with more and more urgency…

Add to this the sense of disbelieving satisfaction that I can actually DO IT. On the odd occasions when a swift string of notes comes out at the right speed, in the right order, and with my fingers apparently acting independently from the rest of my body, just instinctively knowing what to do. If only I could apply that in other areas of life!

Another feeling to treasure is the sound a flute makes, the way it resonates right through my body, when all I did was put my lips together… There’s a deep, woody, richly vibrating tone that the flute can make in its lower register. It’s gorgeous. And amazingly, I can produce that sound.

Those are the feelings I get from the playing of the instrument, but along with those are the fun of mixing with other amateur musicians. The laughter – I have been doubled over and speechless with mirth because my duet pal and I were playing so magnificently, appallingly badly! And there’s also the shared endeavour, the sense that ‘we will get this right, if it kills us!’ Working together, trying to play a tricky passage, taking it over and over again until suddenly, Hey – we did it!

There’s a meditative benefit from flute-playing as well. On my own, when I’m a bit tired, or bored, or sad, I can take the flute out of its box and give it a polish, and tootle through some simple little tunes and magically remove myself from the here and now and give my brain a place to rest and concentrate which doesn’t allow for anxieties or sorrows.

Yes, all of that is why I play the flute. I don’t do it because it’s good for me, I do it because I love it, and even when it’s been so hard to master that I could have cried or snapped it in two across my knee, I still have never wanted to give up.

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Project Finished! New Creativity After 60

Look at this amazing purple beast! The final result from my beginner’s stab at upholstery.

 

Here’s the shabby, dishevelled item it used to be – some transformation, eh!

A chair in need of re-upholstery

Before, it was hidden away under a blanket, too tatty to see the light of day. Now, I drag people off the street to admire it, and every morning take my lovely new velvet brush and perform the satisfying ritual of pile-alignment .

My only problem is that people, and cats, are drawn to it like a magnet – they want to sit on it, for heaven’s sake!

Happy with my creative project, I did learn that I am not a born upholsterer. Tools and I don’t really get on. Tacks and nails fall out or go in on the wonk. I’m too scared to cut. The best bits  were anything to do with fabric, smoothing on wadding, stitching a horsehair lumbar support with string.

None of that mattered though, because I was so well taught by Libby at Bungay upholsterers Perkins & Gibbs.  That woman has the glorious knack of the born teacher of enthusing, demonstrating  and quietly helping (a lot!) so that any hapless student who has bitten off far more than she can chew still ends up full of a sense of achievement.

The real joy, has been in working with others around, all of them are grappling with their own projects.

Even more fun than the process of bringing my weary old chair back to life has been the pleasure of being in the studio amid the quiet buzz of talk and banter, with the interesting people who go there, the dogs who wander in and out, the swags of fabric hanging up, the air of creativity, the sense of connection that Libby and Tam create.

That studio’s a life-enhancing place and I quite fancy upholstering my entire house now, just so I can go back there every couple of weeks for another dose.

It’s great to take on long-neglected creative projects now that there’s a bit more time in life, and some can even be tackled alone. But what I learned this time round is how much more enjoyable it is to go and share the whole thing with a bunch of people who, just at the moments when I was thinking anxiously, this is very purple, had a knack of saying – gorgeous colour.

Do you get a tingle of desire at the thought of making something? Got a project you want to start? Where does the joy lie in creativity for you? Do comment in the box below. And if you enjoy exploring the ins and outs of life beyond 60 with us, enter your email in the box up at the top of the page and you won’t miss a thing. 

Embracing the Unexpected at 60+

In the spirit of Finding New Creativity Over 60, I signed up for a workshop on Concrete Poetry run by the Creative Working Lives group.

A what? If you who know about Dada and the Surrealists you’ll be nodding wisely at this point, but I didn’t have a clue.

But nothing ventured…and it was interesting – spending a day at a long table with a dozen or so others, rearranging random words, making masks, snipping, sticking, writing and generally messing around.

I learned something about poetry, art, surrealism and the glee to be had from in unleashing my inner 5-year old. I also revisited a long-lost wail of ‘I can’t do this….’, and then found that maybe I just about can.

But what I learned most, was the extraordinary power of the unexpected.

Embrace the Unexpected

Because strangely, the gift of the day was not the chance to play, or the feeling of community in the room.

No, it was none of that. It came instead in a conversation with someone else on the course, that sprang up like a Spring storm and died away again just as quickly.

Maybe it was the art that opened the door, or the air of risk-taking and experimentation.

Maybe it was the influence of the letter I wrote from my 80-year-old self, who wants me to be more open.

Whatever the spark, this person simply sat down beside me as I worked and began quietly to talk about a recent and very painful experience in his life, a near-loss which had affected him profoundly.

It felt natural for me to carry on with my cutting and sticking, and let our talk flow effortlessly and honestly into discussing losses in both our lives.

How there are things that can’t be spoken of – until suddenly they can.

How very long it sometimes takes to even begin the drawn-out process of grieving.

How sorrow can resurface years later and feel just as scalding as it did early on, and then drop away again, leaving a sense of release and relief.

The Unexpected Happens in the Moment

His ease in launching into that conversation was the most unexpected and memorable part of a day that was filled with the unexpected and memorable.

And made me aware, not at the time, but now, that perhaps one hidden purpose of this blog is to find a sideways route into writing about grief in a way that heals.

Our talk ended as suddenly as it had begun with the call ‘5 minutes until we’re done!’, and with no acknowledgement of what had been said we both turned to focus on finishing off our pieces of work.

Creativity opens channels. If there’s any message here, it’s to remember that, and explore it.

What have you learned unexpectedly, through trying something new? Please leave your thoughts and comments below.

Write a Letter from Your Older Self

Dear Younger Me…with love from Older Me

Do you ever spend time with your older Self?

Virginia Woolf referred to her older self as ‘Old V’ in her diaries, and this week I’ve brought my own ‘Old E’ to life, in the interesting exercise of writing myself a letter, from me – at 80.

Taking a bit of time to get inside the head of the future you is very different from merely thinking about getting older.

For me the age of 80, though scarcely imminent, isn’t so far in the dim and distant that it’s completely unimaginable. Imagining it is scary, but it’s fruitful too. Will I even get there? Only one of my parents made it into the ninth decade, and that by a hairsbreadth.

Today, I’ll assume that nature will be kind, and fast forward into my older body and mind.

Imagine Yourself at 80

Try it. Sit for a moment, and look at the backs of your hands. How will they look different when you’re 80? Who will you be, years hence? What will be important? And what wisdom does Old You have to share with your younger self?

Le the thoughts settle, then start writing.

Older E turns out to be a force to reckon with. She kicks off: ‘…I’m not “Old E”…I don’t feel old. I’m still not entirely grown up.’

She challenges me to be bold:  ‘…don’t wind down, it’s too soon. You know those richly creative dreams that swirl around in your head…do me a favour, dear younger me, and give up playing safe!’

Let Go of Your Censor

When you write your letter from older you, aim for free flow. Write as you’d speak. Your older self will be a lot  like the current you in the way they speak and think, so don’t use a voice that doesn’t ring true.

Let your inner thoughts come to the fore. Older E knows I’m afraid of looking stupid – she says:

Write stuff. Never mind what people think. People don’t really care that much about what you do, so get over it!

And she offers me reasons not to be scared: …Lead a rich life – think BIG – give me some lovely excitement and adventure to look back on.

She knows what’s good for me, and admonishes me to keep going: …the meditation, it’s so good for you, for me, for us. Learn to know yourself as well as you can, then maybe I won’t need to make quite so much effort at breaking our painful old patterns of anger and defensiveness because you’ll have done the work for me. 

Write to Yourself with Compassion

Don’t use your letter as a chance to berate yourself for any shortcomings. Imagine that you’re writing with love and compassion, to help someone you care for deeply. …what I’m saying here dearest is not here’s a huge to do list, but be kind to yourself and just do your best

You can use your letter to give valuable reminders. Old E insists: Eat wisely and never get above a size 12 – I do NOT want to be matronly.

She advises me to …go easy on the gin, stop being a wuss and get on the bike, go swimming, dance round the kitchen. Have lots of laughs, have fun! It’s up to you whether I’m fit and supple or creaky and cantankerous. 

You’re In This Together

Your Older and Younger selves are one and the same, and what younger you does now can have a profound effect on older you’s experience of ageing. Not that Old E likes that ‘ageing’ label. She says:

Keep your zest for life, stay young at heart and never refer to yourself as an old lady – that’s a label reserved for centenarians.

There’s a surprising amount to learn from spending some time with the Future You. Give it a try, and please leave a comment below and tell us what you’ve discovered.

 

Finding Time To Blog After 60

Time starts behaving very strangely when the familiar old constraints of job and family weaken their grasp or disappear entirely.

It is more than easy to drift through the days, mooching round the garden, turning out drawers, fiddling about on the computer, seeing friends, reading in the morning – I know, outrageous – and so, time sifts away.

It is an incredible privilege to be able to drift through the days for the first time ever since I was packed off to infants’ school aged 4. All those years under the cosh of the timetables, working hours, deadlines and routines.

It’s time to break free.

But to create Beyond 60 and do it well needs time, not drifty time, but focussed creative time.

I want to do it. The idea fires me up. Yet time is slippery, and elusive.

Here’s how I’ve managed to grab hold of a bit, and use it to make something happen.

The 10-minute trick
Snip out a 10-minute segment. Set a timer. Give that 10 minutes full attention and go like the clappers until ‘Brrring!’ – time to stop, but I nearly always keep going. And if I don’t, well, even 10 minutes is worth doing.

Use the right label
When I call my blog ‘work’, I feel ill. Seriously, my chest feels tight, I sit rubbing my forehead saying ‘ergh…’ and I do not feel at all well.

When I think of it as messing about with my blog, doodling with a few ideas because I feel like it – then it’s smiles all the way and a couple of hours gone by, and I walk away saying, ‘that was FUN!’.

Drop the deadlines
I’ve got a blog vision but there’s no rush to get there. One step at a time is all it needs. Keep doing it and don’t give up. But no self-flagellation, please. An hour here and there is ample.

Stop should-ing on myself
When the gremlin voices point out that I ‘should’ be: posting more often, conquering WordPress, making it look prettier etc et-flaming-cetera I offer them a two-word response, and get back to playing.

Experiment with resistance
Whenever I think I can’t be arsed, it’s too much work, no one will read it and so maybe I won’t do it – that’s the time to dance with resistance, play with it, tease it – do anything that’s light and fun to overcome it and use it to catapult me into something new and different.

I love these little tricks because they feel radical and completely opposite to the way I used to work, when work was what I did. And they make blogging feel exciting and fun.

Brrring! There goes the timer.

But before I go, do any of these ideas appeal to you? Have you any tips to help find time for precious creative projects? Please leave a comment below.

Living Dangerously Beyond 60

Egg-diving illustration © Clare Nesbitt

I watched Dr Bill Thomas, a great mover and shaker in the field of creative ageing, talking on the remarkable Growing Bolder website the other night, on how to change the way you view ageing.

His message was simple, and his final piece of advice really struck me. He said, ‘Live dangerously,  because the mortality rate is 100%. And you have a chance now to live more dangerously than you ever lived before.’

That was it.

I kept thinking about that statement. Live Dangerously. What does it mean? Bungee jumping? Egg-diving? Aren’t there other ways, not involving broken limbs, that I – that you – could live dangerously as we get older?

While that was on my mind,  I read blogger Mark Manson on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***

I use asterisks, as I’m not ready to use four-letter words on my blog, but Manson, described by the Huffington Post as, ‘…incredibly inspiring, deeply philosophical and extremely clever’, uses the undoctored profanity  as a way into an exploration into the importance of choosing what’s really important in our lives, and what isn’t.

He made me laugh, a lot.

He also made me think.

He says that throughout our lives, we give a f*** about far too many things. At Beyond 60, these could include cat-sick on the carpet; missing an episode of Desert Island Discs;  running out of Earl Grey teabags, or gin.

But in truth, these trivial items are really not worth giving a f*** about. And, says Manson,  there are only so many f***s you can give in a lifetime, so you’d better choose them carefully, because: ‘Developing the ability to control and manage the f***s you give is the essence of strength and integrity.’

And also, I’d say, the key to living a more dangerous and fulfilling life.

So back to Dr Bill and the question, how to live dangerously?

It’s about taking risks, emotional risks, and you can do it by embracing the things you truly give a f*** about and giving them your all.

Me, I give a f*** for talking, writing and blogging about what matters, like the fact that time is of the essence, because death is not so far away for any of us;  that retirement can leave an exciting and at the same time terrifying void in our lives; and that there’s this chance here, right now, to have an adventure, push ourselves, move out of what’s comfortable, and into what scares us.

Yes, do it kindly, one small step at a time. But do just f***ing do it.

What steps could you take, to live dangerously? Please leave a comment in the box – let’s be dangerous together!