Tiny little bright green buds are peeking their heads out on the bare branches of the giant trees around me, trying to find out if it’s safe to come out for an early spring — mild temperatures are signaling the beginning of spring here in Texas. The old screen door makes a creaky sound amplified by rusty springs, the door slams behind me, and I’m finally back on the long porch that goes the distance of this old Texas farmhouse. Sadly, my neighbor moved and took his cattle, but the view is pretty terrific just the same.
Spring in the Air
Growing up in the Midwest with cold, snowy winters, spring was always a welcome sight. Spring fever would have us out without coats on a sunny day, even though it was still 30 degrees. We simply could not wait for the arrival of spring. And, like the feeling of a first love, spring is about seeing things through fresh eyes and having something new to look forward to. And about the time we get used to it, we’re looking forward to summer, then fall, and even winter. We’re a fickle bunch, we humans.
When we lived in Florida, we could still get a sense of the seasons because some months were hotter or cooler or rainier, but for the most part we missed the seasons, and would often try to visit other places where we could experience them more deeply.
Seasons of Life
I’m amazed at the perfection of life as it compares to seasons, though we really never know if we’re going to be one of the trees that turns red early or one that stays more colorful while the other trees are bare. Each season is a blessing, and, like the seasons of nature, we need to look forward to and embrace each season of our lives, because each brings new experiences worth embracing. And just like the mud in spring thaw or early swarms of summer mosquitoes, there are parts of a season that may not be to our liking, but challenges always come with the good.
I once met a doctor at a cocktail party who specializes in severe, life-altering diseases. I’ve never forgotten what he told me. “The minute I tell a patient of their cancer, I can pretty much tell if they have a chance of survival by how they react. Though no one ever welcomes the news, if they are challenged and tell themselves they intend to beat it, they have a chance. But the ones who absorb it and look at it as if life is over — they rarely survive.” He told me people who changed their attitude after a few days of processing the bad news usually made it through.
How Do YOU See You?
From time to time someone will ask me for advice about life or business or success, and I always start the discussion with the critical importance of what we place in our minds. Science even supports it. How we see ourselves impacts how our life turns out. If we blame others, if things are always someone else’s fault, things never seem to go as well. If, however, we accept responsibility for how things go, and we align our attitude to our desires, they’ll go much better.
How you see yourself matters most. Experts tell me you need to actually see yourself in the exact role you want to be in. Instead of “I’m gonna” it should be “I am.” After a lifetime of daydreaming, the things I dreamed came true. The things I was a little unsure about did not.
Labels and Boxes
Our society hands us labels and boxes. Earlier today I read a story where the headline said “Elderly Woman” … and when I read the story, the woman was 50. Clearly the story was written by someone very young. I for one look back on 50 and remember how young I was. And I don’t look at myself as old. In fact, I scold friends who use those terms because I believe they trigger something in your head to make your life start to wind down.
My dad, who turned 94 on Inauguration Day, sometimes scolds me for mentioning his age because to him, age is not relevant. I can remember that when he turned 70, I thought he was old, and silly for starting a new business when everyone else was retired. But alas, when I called him for his birthday, he was talking about yet another business he was going to work on for the next 20-plus years. And, mark my words, he will do it. By the way, he started something new about 10 years ago, works 15-hour days, and it’s thriving.
You may say he is lucky to have good genes, but I guess that doesn’t explain other family members with the same or similar genes who checked out early. Maybe luck plays a role, but I suspect it’s the brain that makes that luck happen. A friend told us at 55 that he was preparing for death and winding down because he was getting old. My prediction that he would be dead in five years came true.
I’ve mentioned this before, but my acquaintance John Kluge, who was at one time the richest man in the world, told me he did not really start making his success till he was over 70. “My friends all gave up and retired. I kept pitching and became a billionaire.”
A Year to Live
Clearly there are circumstances beyond our control. There can be bad luck, but how you play the cards you are dealt matters. My friend Glen tells me his wife was given a year to live and he was determined to help her beat that, so he quit his job, became a student of healing, and she is alive and healthy 16 years later. He refused to accept the status quo. He refused to accept what they were told. He sought and found alternatives.
You can be young and in spring and tell yourself you’re too old to do something, or you can be in winter and tell yourself you’ve got decades left. And, if you manage your thinking, accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives, you can make it happen.
Remember, whatever you think … you’re right.
Where is your head?
What lies are you buying that don’t have to be true?
What are you telling yourself is about to happen?
What are you telling yourself that will happen?
If we were taught how to push out the negatives, focus on the positives, and see ourselves in the places we want to be, our world would be a different place.
You and I can’t change the minds of others, we can only change our own minds. And perhaps, when others see what’s possible, they too will change.
It starts with you.
Powerful message. Thanks for sending.
Mostly I find your email liable and profound. I have some comments:
– I live in Israel that is more like Miami, but despite the common analogy between life and seasons of the year, the analogy retain as periodical change like seasons; I don’t need to be in northern Canada to understand cold winter, just as I don’t need to be in a country that has the equator in her lands to know the hot weather in the summer.I can even accept your categorizing of seasons in the year and accept the analogy.
– I have a bit of friendly advice to you not to accept those categorical says of doctors. I have one at home and she asked me not to. The doctors, like every other professional, can say anything, and we take it seriously, not because of what he says but who said it. Every doctor has his specialty and does not gossip about how people behave in critical moments of their lives, out of context. As if he can predict behavior and life or death about one instance in their hard moment. It is bad news anyway, and it is OK to fear death, how he or she will react further on is their own business, and unless we know how it is in fact, and how we feel in this situation we cannot judge them, and the outcome of their behavior. I is another case if you tell about a behavioral research.
I always appreciate these emails. They’re one of the few I care to read (and I work in the ‘self-help’ publishing industry!). Thank you, Eric, for the great insights and wisdom.
I totally agree with you. I’m 88 and the caretaker for my wife of 82 who has dementia and cannot communicate verbally, so my time for painting is limited to an hour or two most days and yet, here I am making a ten year plan for my art business and that doesn’t seem out of line for me and my way of thinking.
I am lucky to be very healthy and I maintain that with stretching exercises every morning before preparing my wife for the morning with her favorite breakfast. She still is the love of my life after 52 years of marriage. Maybe that’s the answer.
I’m on your side Ernie. Sorry to learn of wife’s issues While I don’t have similar problems I can relate to the age. Being 83, as you know, carries its own set of problems. Fortunately I have been blessed with good genes. Only began painting about 6 years ago. With the COVID we don’t get out much and I feel the need to spend more time with my wife therefore don’t paint as much as I might otherwise. God bless and good luck.
Hi Ernie. I can simply get what you are going through. I’m only 70 (on29th of March 2021) but have a lot of experience with health problems. I have a chronic disease with some side effect that 15% of the patients get it (chronic severe nerve pain that advances) Until 2012 I was a computer science expert – mainly in software quality assurance. One of my last jobs was as a senior consultant. This job needed gathering a lot of information – and even after ending I continued gathering information; I received daily, on my home computer, 250 professional emails. I mentioned this with a purpose. After three years of lazy retirement, I felt bad about everything. Nowadays, six years later, I am an artist (I really do not accept this; I am merely a student of painting, although they take my paintings to exhibitions, I feel bad about it – I have only six years of studying and I need at least another 4 years), but I am occupied by painting and other artistic areas (writing, singing,..) but mostly painting. 18 – 19 hours a day. Direct painting in studio 6 – 10 hours, learning arts in MoMA (NY) courses, and others’ in watercolor and other connected issues 4-6 hours per day, and participate in local (Israel, Haifa) Painters and Sculptors Association’s activities another 2-3 hours, developed new ideas in painting and other activities (prepare a virtual museum of my own work of art) other 2-4 hours. This is a completely other activity that I had to decide to change life form in order to do it as I do everything, deeply and thoroughly. Yes, I unsubscribed from ALL my former information sources, and these days I get 130 daily emails, about painting, arts, etc. I am proud to say that I had the courage to be sincere and honest with my spouse, family, friends and make the major change in life.
But really what I need to tell you, that for 3 years I took it upon myself to take care of my mother-in-law, whom I loved very much, lived with her and a specialized helping power from Nepal. She was heavy and needed special equipment for normal life (she had got a major left-side stroke) It was a 24/7 activity, but when you do it for love, it is hard mostly to leave it (after her death). She was a lovely optimistic and giving human being, the best I have ever known. Even now, ten years later, I have 2 pictures on my desk, and I find myself thinking and dreaming of her.
Thanks for very uplifting Sunday Coffee post, although I didn’t read it until Tuesday. Your thoughts are quite inspiring and I am going to save the essay to my PC and title it Pep Talk for when I need a good dose of positivity, especially when my painting inspiration is lagging. Also thanks so much for the wonderful artist interviews that you have shared on Youtube since Covid!
Funny about your “elderly” comment. Last week i posted part of a newspaper article with the headline of “Elderly Woman arrested as suspect in husband’s murder.” Read a bit farther down to see that she was 66! Younger than I am. And her dead husband 58. The deceased was not described as elderly. But it was pointed out that she was “Elderly”. So the response from my Facebook friends was mixed. Some assumed the write was very young. Others stated that usually it’s a woman over 60 that is called Elderly but men over 60 are just men. Or gentlemen. I’m planning to live and work a long time. I carry joy with me after surviving cancer 7 years ago. No way will I waste thought on how old I’m getting. I’m just getting better and better and have been given a big bonus round. And for those of you reading this my 87 year old neighbor weighed in on article I posted and said that 80 + is elderly. To her I am very young!!
Good thing to here at 77yrs. I e always thought that way but I d noticed lately that occasional thoughts of ‘well I can’t do that , I don’t have dnough years left. Now I remember it’s the doing that we must enjoy, not necessarily the end of the journey. Good luck with your watercolorvlive coming up. I attended the other two and they were fantastic, but decided that financially I needed to forego this time.
Also I would love to see a bit more talk about equipment for Plein air painting for someone just starting to paint outside. I’m sure there are some good tips about getting started without breaking the bank for equipment when beginning and being to then upgrade slowly.
What a powerful and inspiring sentiment your message on aging was! Thank you for your insight and your outlook!
70 and shining!
thank you for this thoughtful post, I fully agree with you!
Wow, Mr. Rhoads, those are powerful words. I will rethink my attitude towards aging. Yes, at times I tell myself that aging is part of life and what is the point of starting something new at this stage in my life. But while my body may say whoa, my mind still works like at 20 something. I’m going to adopt a more positive attitude! Thank you for the prompt!
Another timely message. It really hit home with me. I’ve never felt my age or really thought about it until this year when my cardiologist told me my biggest risk factor was my age. Those words set me back. After a couple of procedures, an ablation and a watchman implant and a serious self imposed mind adjustment I feel great and I know all will be fine, age be damned. I paint everyday, walk everyday. When my cardiologist’s new Mercedes is paid off I can join in on the painting events, Realism Live and Water Color Live etc..I’m just hoping you continue putting them on. Thanks for all good words and the daily pod casts. You are a true blessing to all of us artists.
Once again your words are just I have needed..thank you and may the world be a better place to live together..Peggy
Hi Eric from a hot Melbourne with temperatures expected to hit 40c. Having worked as a social worker in ICU and emergency departments I totally agree that out attitude to some extent can determine our health outcomes. But shit does happen! I also worked in family violence , sexual assault and victims of crime areas so know that one can be a victim…….again though I witnessed many survive trauma and in fact become more resilient and empathic because of their experiences. I retired this year when Covid hit Melbourne…we had 100 days in lockdown but seem to have it well under control. There is light at the end of the tunnel and we are all thinking of you and what you have all been through in so many ways. I actually called myself an “artist” for the first time the other day…..here’s to a new career and, it would seem, like your father and yourself here’s to success! Ps would love to do watercolour live but saving up for oil live!
How do you see yourself?
Eric, that is a great question, and one that has evolved as I have gotten older. Your priorities for sure change from when you were say in your twenties, to what they are now that I am 62 years old. Being an artist has always been my life’s dream, as early as age six it’s something that I always knew would happen. However, the importance of my faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ, made it all possible which takes priority over everything that I am today. During this pandemic I very quickly realized that standing in the word of God, and his promises during the present world crisis is my hope for the future. I thank God for the artistic gifts that he has given me, and the opportunities that he has provided through these gifts. I started out with a B.A. in Art Education and ended up being a Computer Graphics Artist (retired 3/20), so lifes road has been an interesting one, and that road still stretches out in front of me always changing, and as soon as we emerge from this pandemic, I want to dedicate more time to fine art painting, and mentoring young people. Always setting goals and reaching for my dreams.
I read your Sunday morning coffee every week. Funny you should talk about age, I turn 89 this coming week. I changed my health to excellent about 8yrs ago. I felt terrible and was taking 8 medications for several things the Doctors had prescribed to me. I was crying and asking the Lord to help me. Suddenly He spoke to me ( not an audible voice) saying; Who is your physician?I responded ” Whoops!” You are Lord! He helped and guided me off of ALL medications. I am still med free. I do take a lot of supplements as needed as I know my body. I appreciate every day and Praise my Creator each morning that I wake and able to move. I also do 1hr stretches every morning before I start my day which helps tremendously. Keep up your good work and God bless you and your family.
Eric, I m starting life anew after certain hardship some time ago. I’m starting to be educated in oil painting and will devote myself to inspirations from Greek and Hellenistic Antiquity which has filled my life with inspiration and joy. Long live Art!
Eric, I also am a practicing physician, 37 years in medicine and counting. And I have to disagree with your blithe assertion that “attitude is everything” when it comes to health challenges. Yes, a positive outlook can be helpful in many respects. But embedded in that cheery attitude is a cruel corollary.
Sure, patients who gird themselves for the battle that comes with a discouraging diagnosis are likely to do better than folks who give up. But at the end of the day, it’s not someone’s attitude that determines if they’re going to be cured of a cancer. It’s the state of the scientific art of oncology, the support system the patient can deploy to help them through the challenges, their willingness to endure grueling treatment, and the hard reality of their specific disease and clinical situation. All the positive attitude and optimism in the world won’t alter the outcome of many metastatic cancers.
The soul-crushing corollary of believing that ‘attitude is everything’ is what happens when a cancer returns, when the disease progresses despite every effort on the part of the patient and their caregivers, and the prognosis turns bleak. I have seen this repeatedly. Patients blame themselves for not believing hard enough, not taking enough (generally worthless) supplements, not pursuing yet another quixotic (or frankly fraudulent) treatment. It’s blaming the victim. It’s heartbreaking and more than a little cruel.
So, sure, a positive attitude is a valuable thing. But don’t compound someone’s suffering by blaming them for insufficient positivity when something horrible befalls them.
This is my second Sunday Coffee with you Eric and it’s delightful. Thank you for taking time to write. This year I closed my business after 43 years and 32 books. Time to start a new chapter in life. Looking forward to picking up my watercolor brushes and painting. Excited about the events this week! (Your friend John Kluge his art collection was very edgy)
I prefer to consider this approach as positive doing as opposed to positive thinking. After a lifetime of doing art projects i have found it is best to just begin one step at a time. Strangely most positive thinkers never take the first step because they want a result that matches their vision and will accept nothing else. Focus upon the goal and realize that the process of materialization will involve twists and turns which cannot be imagined before they happen.
It works for physical healing as well. After my first spinal surgery it took me 6 months to move a finger and a toe, after that i quickly learned once again how to crawl, to stand and over time to walk unassisted. Simultaneously remembering how to speak, read, write and most importantly create art.
The visualization must be accompanied by action no matter how small, after that anything is possible.
Another great article, Eric. I’m a very young 74. I just took up acrylics last year and I’m looking forward to being amazing at them in the next 20 years. I’ve always been active and I have always tried new things and when I meet people in their 40’s and 50’s I always feel they are the same age as me. I see some people in their 70’s and have no idea we are the same age. It is as you Dad says, your choice how old you are, apart from that number, which is really just for purposes of legalities. Cheers!
Your Sunday Coffee emails are always inspiring.
I am reading an old book “The Master Mind” by Theron Q. Dumont. The passage I read this morning, coffee in hand, on the porch, tied in so well with your thoughts of the day. Serendipity? I think not. I am 69 years old and, yes, when I look in the mirror I can’t believe what I see. In my mind, I am still curious, excited to discover new things and learn. In my mind, I am still a child. Age is just a number. I did beat cancer because, in my mind, the first thought that popped out was “What am I doing about it?” Eleven years later, I am still going strong and healthy.
A year ago, I picked up my paint and brushes. I did not go to a medium that I knew, I went with watercolor because I didn’t know anything about it. The discovery always excites me. I may not be good at it but I am persistent and the most important is that I enjoy the journey.
Thank you for this “Coffee”. A positive outlook is so important as well as being thankful. Focusing on the negatives obscures the many blessings in our lives. Because we moved to Phoenix ten years ago, I know well the feeling of missing Autumn and Spring seasonal changes. But, I don’t miss scooping snow off driveways, icy roads, or scraping ice off windshields … more reasons to be grateful! Thank you for sharing your positive outlook on life.
Another great Sunday Coffee. Very inspiring words. Sometimes, at a young 73, I feel the effects of getting older, but am going to fight it to the very end! Volunteering is a big part of my life, and I know that you get what you give!
Thank you Eric for a message I needed today.
Good morning! “Sunday Coffee” was especially timely & I needed the nudge it gave me. I have a birthday this week & had decided that I’d not acknowledge it, as if that would mean that I wouldn’t get any older. How ridiculous is that. I have every reason to be hopeful: I have a loving husband who. Is making me pancakes as I write this, we both had our first vaccines this week, and Mr. Biden & Ms. Harris are in the Oval Office undoing four years of damage. Yes I am hopeful. Thanks for reminding me, All the best.
I am a “mostly retired” architect returning to my first love, oil painting. I had tried to leave university to go to the Art Students League in New York but that was not well received at home! Enrolled in a class in Port Stanley Ontario to get back into it and was definitely the oldest student. My paint box was older than the instructor.
Find myself now in Naples Florida taking a Beginning Watercolour Class with Genie Kell. The deference and consideration with which I was treated during my first class last week made me realize just how young everyone was and conversely how old I was! I hadn’t noticed!
I will be 85 this coming May and I totally understand your fathers enthusiasm for life learning and creating!
Always inspiring, your thoughtful sharing has arrived at the exact right moment…again:)
Thank you, Eric!
the power of positive thinking. vital to life . thanks Linda so looking forward to what I will learn at watercolor live!!!!!
You have your fathers tenacity and inner drive. This is a great essay. I read them every week.
My brother John is getting the “artist’s itch” he’ll be great at it too. Any suggestion on where we can join you after this pandemic begins to wind down?
Really enjoy reading your Sunday Coffee posts. Thank you!
By the way, we live in Midwest, and your saying of ” every season is a blessing” is so true!
Good Morning, Eric. I always look forward to your Sunday Coffee posts. Thank you so much for sharing them. I will be 78 in a little over a month and hearing friends or family bemoan that they would soon have “another” birthday and be “older” has always shocked me. (some of them were only 40) They have it all wrong. Each birthday should be a Big celebration of another year! The one that you just had and the one that stretches out before you.
I completely agree that what we think is extremely important. I hope that millions of people read your post and understand the wonderful truth in what you said. Positive thoughts initiate positive action. Same with being happy. Times can be tough but there will still be joy and happiness and beauty. We chose what we wish to see and feel. Why chose sad and depressed when we can chose happy and eager?
Thank you, Eric. Enjoy the Texas spring as it unfolds. I am enjoying the middle of the Midwestern winter. . . and it is So beautiful. How did I get so lucky?
Perfectly said! I always enjoy reading your Sunday Coffee posts. I am 71 years old and tell others exactly what you said. Do not think of negative things that “can” happen to you. I try to only think positive thoughts on anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a negative thought, but that I immediately exchange it for something positive. I believe we attract whatever it is we are thinking.