May 31, 2013

Oak Trees & Possibilites: How to Live Our Best Third Act. ~ Dusty Ranft


I recently watched a TEDx talk by Jane Fonda called Life’s Third Act.

One of the key points she made was that we are living 35 years longer than our grandparents. We are going to live longer than the generations before us. How are we going to redefine aging?

She proposes that we create a new paradigm for aging: a staircase—A slow elevation into wisdom, spirituality, growth, and authenticity. One third of our climb, our ascent into aging, is going to give way to genetics (thanks for the varicose veins grandma).

However two thirds (roughly 67 percent) of how we age…well, that my friends is up to us. This is called the third act.

It has been said that the purpose of adulthood is to deal with issues from childhood.

Now we don’t want to live amongst these issues, making them a crutch in our current lives. And yet, revisiting our past—carefully reviewing our lives—is essential to living our best tomorrow. What we think, do and say becomes our reality: the reality of our lives.

Our relationship to the past will define the person we become. And so we must deal with the first act.

Jane Fonda is a bit older than I am. In that way, her sage advice hits me at a time in my life when cleaning up the past and manifesting the future are top priority. I’m in my second act. The first act (childhood) is often a distant misty haze of recollections. My past is a smoggy mixture of nostalgia, pain, pleasure, freedom and wild abandon.

The past has a certain feeling to it.

I used to climb a giant Oak tree in my grandma’s front yard—climbing and grasping for each new branch—my ascent a statement to the ground below: I am fearless and free. I found comfort and solitude among the leaves and bark. The sun rays broke through the wooden arms that held me, warming my skin. I would stare up through the blanket of green, to the very tip-top of that big Oak tree. The sun would meet my gaze—yellow blindness enveloped me.

This memory feels warm.

Almost habitually, my eyes close: I expect to be blinded. Yellow and green—the buzz of cicadas—I am transported back in time and left perched high among the branches. I squint to see more but the past blows through the leaves—a gusty warm breeze.  I am left suspended in time.

Not all memories come this easily.

For many years now, my ability to recall my specific age (when calling forth a memory) totally and completely escapes me. I don’t know how old I was when I learned to ride a bike or climb that tree. Or the year I was a witch for Halloween (seriously, what was the year?).  Sure, I can ask my parents:  but I don’t remember.

It bothers me; it’s like a giant boulder covering the memory cave’s mouth: it won’t budge. The past just becomes a blur. This is not even touching on all the past memories I would like to forget. The events that rocked me; changed who I was—stole my innocence.

These come like multiplication tables: two times five equals ten. No hesitation.

Growing up, I went to a Catholic grade school. My parents were by no means religious. We rarely went to church on Sunday. It was a decision based on education and they sacrificed to send me. I remember a teacher (was it fourth or fifth grade?) once telling me, “Cross your legs and try to be a lady.”  She said it with disdain, like she’d just sucked on a lemon, as I sat (knees together not crossed) in my plaid green-blue uniform skirt.

Her words, “Try to be a lady” seared my skin like a Florida sunburn. I was aflame with embarrassment. What a small miniscule moment of my past…and yet, here I am (37 years old) feeling it again like it was only just yesterday.

That’s how memories stay with us. They live within the walls of our skin; seep into our fat like insulation.

Bad memories pretend to protect us. We hold them closest and keep them fresh. We relive the past not only as a thought, but as a feeling. The words or actions of that teacher, our parents, the betrayal of a friend, heartbreak, the death of a loved one…all these memories live within us. Space is occupied. No vacancy.

Our bodies: a storing house of grief, loss, outrage, pain, fear, and heartache.

The past can clutter the present.

And so we must make amends with our first act. Revisit and knock on the doors of long ago. Only this time—do it for understanding. Revisit with compassion for that teacher that may have strived her whole life to be a lady. Touch down long enough to make peace and then take flight: no layovers or over-night stays. Allow your past to teach you what you needed to learn. Perhaps it is forgiveness or compassion.

What we are unwilling to forgive in another is a simple reminder of who we fear we are.

To let go of the past is simply that. Let it go. This is not to diminish serious trauma, abuse, rape, incest—you name it, the worst suffering imaginable—this is not to say that wasn’t real and true, horrible and pain riddled. It is to say that it no longer serves you.

Letting it go will.

I woke up this morning to my InstaPepTalk Poster. It is this amazing, free iPhone app created by the incomparable Karen Salmansohn. Everyday a new PepTalk  poster pops up onto my screen. It is a small simple daily joy. And often a giant forehead smack of Aha!

Today it read: Want to change your past? Change your tomorrow’s past. Make sure today is as happy as possible. No shit. And Karen didn’t know I was writing this piece on the past if you know what I mean.

The Universe conspires to help you rid yourself of all that is not serving you.

We are not meant to live among the ruins. Our purpose is to build our tomorrows by being present in our today. Don’t live among the dead moth-ball ridden memories of long ago. Build your life on today.

Start with today.

I find that the more I let go of, the better I feel. It really is simple (but it sure is hell ain’t easy). What we feel is really real. I get pissed off. I live within the stories I make up in my mind. I justify my point of view.

And if your story relates to mine, I will lock arms with you—invite you on a walk—we can tell our stories of woe: partners in our pain. This is what we all do. We all tell stories. We all have a voice in our head (What voice? I don’t have a voice! [That’s the voice]).

It isn’t our friend.

And frankly, most of the time it’s the negative so & so you wouldn’t choose to be friends with in the first place. You wouldn’t dare speak to a dear friend the way your head voice talks to you.

Me? Yes, you: the one listening.

Our second act is our mid-life point (if all goes according to plan).

This is the time to make amends and create the tomorrow of our deepest hopes. Oprah says, “You don’t become what you want. You become what you believe.” So believe in your inherent goodness. Believe that you are more than your past. Believe that those who wronged you were having a human experience. Believe that love, goodness, worthiness, and brilliance are your birthright.

This is how we change our tomorrow: believe in the possibilities of today and let go of yesterday’s woes.

Start with shear gratitude for the sun warming your face. Look up through the balcony of branches in a big oak tree and be grateful. Find an old teacher on Facebook that touched your life in a positive way and let ‘em know. Hug your dog. Sing a song out loud in your car with the windows down. Call that friend and say I’m sorry (even if you still want to be right). Forgive. Give. Give some more. Let go of the story.  Let life unfold. Release your grip. Unclench your jaw.

Get ready for the climb: the stair case of your third act awaits.


Dusty Ranft (RYT-500, RN) is a wild one.  A writer, yoga teacher, studio owner (in the making), runner, foodie leanin’ vegan, Mommy to Big Doggie (a Pit bull rescue), (retired) nurse, health nut, smoothie drinkin’— juice makin’ lover of life.  She has beat the holy hell out of Cancer, ran two marathons, won many games of thumb wars, read thousands of amazing books, and lives trying to answer the universal questions:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  Dusty has decided to turn pro in life.  She believes that all of life is practice and pumps her fist in the air every time she reads these words by Steven Pressfield, “Once we turn pro, we’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God.  For us, there is no finish line.  No bell ends the bout.  Life is the pursuit.  Life is the hunt.  When our hearts burst…then we’ll go out, and no sooner.”  You can find her practicing handstands every chance she gets, teaching what she learns in her yoga classes, laughing really hard, pleading with the muse to shine inspiration on her writings, and sharing gritty realism with her closest companions.  If that isn’t enough, look on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramPinterest and follow the growth of Tree House Yoga (a soon to be brick and mortar replica of her heart).



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Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Picture: #50things on twitter.com via #50things No. 1 “Climb a Tree” on Pinterest}

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