Road Less TraveledIn my 20s, I believed that by the time I was in my 50s I’d have my life all figured out.

So color me surprised to find myself 52, and not only haven’t I arrived at a destination, I still don’t exactly know where I’m going!

Who Hid the Road Signs?

I’m not alone in my confusion. Many others in my midlife cohort are experiencing this same unexpected uncertainty.

With the economy the way it is, our kids aren’t launching with the greatest of ease. Our own careers are being blindsided by personal dissatisfaction or downsizing due to obsolescence and foreign outsourcing. Many of us are weighed down with concerns about our parents’ health problems, not to mention our own health problems we never planned on having. And some of our marriages aren’t as satisfying–or as permanent–as we thought they’d be when we said our I dos.

Most frightening of all, the blissful, carefree retirement we’ve been promised if only we work hard and play by the rules may not ever happen, especially for those of us on the tail end of the Boomer generation and after.

Turns out that middle-age–a time where many of us thought we’d be done struggling with confusion and uncertainty–is far more complicated than we expected.

Where can we turn for help?

AARP

AARP-Real-PossibilitiesBut, Chloe, isn’t AARP for old people?

Nope. Myth busted!

Today’s AARP is for people like you and me looking for help as we navigate these turbulent waters of modern middle-age. In fact, AARP has a project created just for people like you and me. It’s called Life Reimagined®.

What is Life Reimagined®?

Life-Reimagined-CycleLife Reimagined® is a website, a book, and an active community on Facebook. But most of all, Life Reimagined® is a practical process developed to help users map out midlife’s real possibilities.

In April, I wrote a post about being selected as a participant in a social media project to get the word out to my audience about AARP’s Life Reimagined®.

That post was written during a time of great personal sadness and loss. I hope my post ended on a hopeful note–because I was hopeful at the time–but it’s naïve at best, and dishonest at worst, to make it seem like creating a life worth living is cake.

It’s not cake.

Creating a life worth living demands courage and a willingness to take risks. It isn’t easy. If it were easy then everybody would be doing it. And you and I both know everybody isn’t doing it. Lots of folks out there are living lives of quiet desperation just biding their time until they take the long dirt nap.

Make Sure You Live Before You Die

In their book, Life Reimagined, authors Richard Leider and Alan Webber call this quiet desperation “Inner Kill”.

Leider and Webber describe inner kill this way:

You have inner kill when you’ve stopped growing, when you’ve given up on yourself, or when you find yourself always taking the easy, safe way. …Ultimately, inner kill is the death of self-respect.

I’m sure you know people who live their entire lives in a perpetual state of inner kill. I sure do! These are the miserable folks who give aging a bad name.

We didn’t know it, but after our kids left home, both my husband and I were experiencing inner kill. Living the “American Dream,” we weren’t exactly sure why we were miserable. We had it all. Weren’t we supposed to be happy? But we weren’t.

We didn’t even have the vocabulary to talk about it. So we didn’t. We just kept on carrying on, not dealing with mounting anxiety and frustration; living lives that weren’t bringing either of us the joy and contentment we longed for.

Pulling the Trigger

Leider and Webber also write about triggers. Triggers are those potentially life-altering moments of truth in our lives when we become conscious of our inner kill.

My trigger was pulled twice in 2012. First, in January, with a marriage crisis that turned our lives inside out, and then, in September, during an Advanced Cardiac Life Support class I have to take every two years as a requirement for my job as an RN.

For lunch, I went out with one of the other nurses from the hospital where I worked. As we were chomping on our salads and talking about our jobs, she remarked, offhandedly, “You are such a good nurse.”

A normal person would have smiled and thanked her or modestly brushed off the compliment. Me? I burst into tears.

See, for five years I’d worked under a manager who doesn’t believe in positive feedback. With her, it’s all stick, and no carrot.

No matter what I did, no matter how how hard I worked, according to her, I was always failing.

I remember one morning having two emergency cesarean sections within two hours (this was a tiny facility, and I was the ONLY RN in our department on duty that day). It was a crazy day, and I’d really given my patients 1000%.

My manager’s feedback the next day? A terse, handwritten note taped to the outside of a cupboard in the nurse’s station that I’d forgotten to check some box in my charting.

Nothing about the two babies who’d come out alive and healthy. No mention about the mothers and fathers who had expressed such gratitude over my excellent care under difficult circumstances. No thank you for skipping all of my meal breaks for 12+ hours(!) in order to care for these patients. Nothing positive whatsoever.

And I’d been living this way for FIVE YEARS! No wonder I was miserable and demoralized.

Living a Life that Defeats Inner Kill

That day at lunch I knew that I was done with that soul-sucking, inner-killing job. But it wasn’t just a matter of quitting.

Despite my awareness that I couldn’t go on like that, all the reasons I’d stayed in a state of inner kill for five years weren’t just going to magically disappear. I had to face my fears about my financial future, and the very real problem of the lack of other job opportunities for RNs in my rural community.

What it did mean though is that I was done letting my fears limit the solutions I was willing to consider.

Now I’m going to ask you:

Are you done letting your fears limit the solutions you are willing to consider? #LifeReimagined Tweet This!

There’s a great book discussion happening on Facebook where other readers and leaders in the Life Reimagined community discuss inner kill, triggers, and other topics Leider and Webber address in their book, Life Reimagined: Discovering Your New Life Possibilities. I encourage you to buy the book, and invite you to join in the discussion happening on Facebook.

You are worthy of a life worth living.

Disclaimer: This post is supported by Life Reimagined (www.lifereimagined.org): your guide to rethinking what’s possible and seizing your “what’s next” in work, relationships, health, personal finance and more. All opinions are my own.

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The Big Easy

 “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” -Tennessee Williams, Author

Thanks to some accumulated United Airlines frequent flier miles, Jeff and I flew off to New Orleans this past February to celebrate Mardi Gras in style.

Mardi Gras literally means ‘Fat Tuesday’ in French, but the party starts revving up at least two weeks before this all-out Bacchanal. We were there for a week of it, and I’m not sure we could have survived much more.

New Orleans is not like other cities. Case in point:

I need to get my drinking in

I’ve never considered putting drinking on my to-do list before.

New Orleans is Not Cheap

New Orleans is a very romantic city with tons to see, hear, eat, and do. But let me warn you: NOLA is no bargain vacation. Bring cash, and lots of it.

Grace and Decadence: The Hotel Monteleone

After a bit of crowd-sourcing of my NOLA friends on Facebook, we chose the historic Hotel Monteleone for our romantic getaway.

hotel-monteleone-new-orleans-hotel-french-quarter-entrance-732x428

Located in the heart of the French Quarter on Royal Street, the Monteleone is a luxurious 4-star literary and historical landmark that’s been written about by Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote.

Our room was beautiful, and the staff, especially Dave, our favorite doorman, bent over backwards making sure our trip was elegantly-appointed debauchery from the moment we stepped foot onto the property until Dave poured us into our taxi back to the airport.

Monteleon Room

Every morning, we were awakened by the reverberating bass tones of the steam whistle from the Riverboat Natchez announcing its daily departure. Pulling back the blessed blackout curtains, we were greeted by an ever-changing view of the Mighty Mississippi.

Mississippi View

I’m Ready for My Close-up. Or not.

Our very first day in NOLA started off with my first-ever appearance on Huffington Post Live where I was to discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder with the man who discovered it, Dr. Norman Rosenthal.

This was going to be my big debut!!

Except right as I was stepping into the shower I realized that I had miscalculated the time difference between New Orleans and the East Coast where HuffPoLive is broadcast.

Panicked, I threw on the hotel bathrobe, barely making it on air before the show started. I wasn’t wearing a lick of make-up, and I didn’t have a stitch of clothing underneath that robe. And I had to do the whole thing with my telephone plastered to my head because I couldn’t get my audio to work.

Suicide Huff Post Live

I have a new headline for them: “Woman wants to kill herself after looking like this on HuffPo Live.”

Oh well. I was in New Orleans! Who cares?

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! Tomorrow, We’ll Do It All Over Again

After the Huffington Post Live debacle, we set out to eat. And eat. And eat.

In the entire 78 square blocks of the French Quarter there is not one national chain restaurant (House of Blues a possible exception). This means that you will eat food there that you cannot get anywhere else on Planet Earth.

Amazing food.

Grilled Oysters with Garlic-Chili Butter from Cochon’s

Oysters from Cochon

The Strawberry Shortcake from The Commander’s Palace (MUST GO HERE!)

Strawberry Shortcake from The Commander's Palace

Beignets and café au lait from the world-famous Café du Monde

Beignets from Cafe du Monde

More Amazing Oysters from Acme Oyster House

oysters remoulade Acme Oyster House

I was so enraptured by the presentation, and desperate to get everything set before us into my mouth as fast as possible, that I forgot to take pictures of most of it. Trust me. Every single bite of food, without exception, that passed through my lips, was to die for.

Music in New Orleans is Like Air is Everywhere Else

New Orleans is the only city in the world with its own live soundtrack.

Nearly every corner is occupied by street musicians displaying varying degrees of talent. As the mother of a talented musician, my first thought when I passed by these remarkable performers was how much their parents must have spent on music lessons only to have their kids end up busking for a living on a dirty street in New Orleans.

We tipped every single musician who demonstrated any talent. The ones without we sent up a silent prayer that they will call home as I’m sure their mothers are worried about them.

The first two nights we wandered up and down Bourbon Street soaking up the vibe of this amazingly unique city.

Bourbon Street

But our favorite place for music ended up being The Maison on Frenchmen Street.

Maison

Recommended by fellow blogger, Lisha Perry Fink, from The Lucky Mom, we ended up there almost every night. Their red beans and rice were good, too.

The delightful Lisha also played tour guide one day, meeting up with Jeff and me and showing us around the Quarter. Rumor has it that we also might have wasted away the rest of the long afternoon drinking piña coladas in Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Margaritaville

I’ve Always Depended on the Kindness of Bloggers

One day I took off alone on the streetcar to the Garden District where I met up with Connie McLeod from My Creative Journey, and Cheryl Nichols from A Pleasant House.

Cheryl took us on a drive through the parts of New Orleans that were impacted by Katrina. It was eye-opening to get out of the relatively unscathed French Quarter and see where the real damage from that horrific storm happened.

Afterwards we went for lunch at a lovely little French Restaurant, whose name I cannot remember, where we had the most marvelous time solving all of the world’s problems.

Connie and Cheryl

“Hey! You’re Naked!”

Then my husband decided it would be fun to get me drunk. I don’t know why I go along with his crazy schemes, but I do, or I did. At one point he took away my phone and started doing drunken status updates by proxy on Facebook.

My wife is hammered

At least 70 of my friends thought this was hilarious.

We started off that night with absinthe at The Old Absinthe House.

I know I didn’t get drunk from the absinthe because it’s like $20 for one drink. But isn’t it pretty?

the Old Absinthe House

I absolutely did not hallucinate or become a great writer like Hemingway while drinking absinthe, but I did get my phone back in time to take a drunk selfie!

Drunk Selfie

I really don’t have any lips, do I?

My husband carried me up to our room and may have had his way with me which I think was his devious plan all along. At some point I passed out fell asleep.

About four o’clock in the morning, there came a knock upon our door.

Feeling around and finding my husband not in bed I figured he was up and he’d deal with our visitor. (Was it security? Had we been too loud?) I passed back out fell back to sleep. A few minutes (maybe?) later came a more insistent knocking.

Seeing that my husband must be in the bathroom and wasn’t going to handle this intruder, I called out, “Who is it?”

Imagine my surprise when I heard my husband whisper very loudly, “It’s me! Open the door!”

Had he gone back out after I’d passed out fallen asleep??? What the heck?

Stumbling to the door I opened it to find my husband standing there butt naked in the hallway of the Hotel Monteleone.

Always one for stating the obvious, I exclaimed, “Hey! You’re naked!”

He pushed his way past me saying, “Yes. I know that.”

Me: “But why are you naked in the hallway?”

Him: “I thought it was the bathroom.”

Me: “But the bathroom is right here.”

Him: “YES. I KNOW THAT! I woke up and it was dark and I opened the wrong door and when I opened my eyes and realized I was out in the hallway it was too late because the door had already closed behind me.”

Did you know that hard belly laughter can sober you  right up?

Well, it can’t.

But I think I must have laughed until the alcohol finally wore off because I laughed for a very long time.

I guess he’d stood out there with his front pressed against the door for quite some time trying to wake me up while not drawing attention to his awkward situation from anyone else.

What’s funny is that he wasn’t the one who had been drinking.

We figure they must see a lot of that sort of thing in New Orleans.

My husband feels that he can once and truly cross New Orleans off his bucket list because after you’ve locked yourself out in the hallway naked you’ve done it all.

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Why I Kicked God Out of My Sex Life

I’m sending this one out to all my Christian sisters. I can hear you already. “That Chloe!” “She’s leading all the nice Christian women astray! Again.” No, I’m not. I’m here to help a sister (and my brothers in Christ) out. I could just as easily have titled this post, “Why I politely asked God […]

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My Writing Process: How the Magic is Made

There’s this thing going around Bloggertown where bloggers are writing about their writing processes, and Carol Cassara from carolcassara.com invited me to participate. Carol is a rock solid blogger who has been a writer all of her life. She brings a discipline to her blog that I envy. Carol posts nearly every day. Her posts […]

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5 Things You Can Do About Your Husband’s Midlife Crisis

Not every man has a male midlife crisis, but enough of them do–wreaking havoc on their lives and the lives of those who love them–that it’s become a cultural cliché. Since Boomers are the ones who invented the notion that nobody over 30 should be trusted, can we honestly be surprised that people become a […]

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Burning for You

There you are. I knew I’d find you here. Waiting for me. Like you know I could never stay away. I don’t want to come here, you know. I never do. I don’t want to need you this badly. But I do. No more excuses. I am here. And so are you. The war that […]

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Never Let Her Smell Your Fear

My current employer must have read my last post because I’ve enjoyed ALL of my meal breaks this past week. Hal-la-freaking-luja! Now I might survive these 13 weeks as a traveling nurse, seeing as I’m a living, breathing human being who needs food and water at some point during my twelve and a half hour […]

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The Pain of Not Being Wanted

I’ve spent the last three days doing nothing else but working my ass off as a travel nurse for a company that treats its nurses like shit, and reading Julie Deneen’s book, wanted: a memoir. The work situation has been a bit disheartening considering it’s Nurses’ Week. Sure they gave us cheap, nylon backpacks with […]

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Creating the Life You Want

Sitting in the Atlanta airport after the Mom 2.0 Summit waiting for my plane, I’m doing what I do a lot these days: pondering the meaning of life, and what it means–and what it takes—and what it has taken so far–to create a life worth living. No. Really. I’m fine. After the umpteenth person approached […]

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Hitting a Bump in the Road

Today, I’m on the road to my own Life Reimagined. My house is gone. My dog is dead. And my heart’s been broken by people I once trusted and loved. If your life has ever gone to pot then you’ll know that I’m feeling about as blue as a person can feel. So it’s not […]

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