- “I’m trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.”
- “I’m a frustrated fish out of water since retiring two years ago.”
- “I’m desperate to find something to fill my time!”
- Woman in her 80’s: “What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? I feel helpless and hopeless without worthwhile connections.”
I attended a class four and a half years ago comprised of people in their 50’s through their 80’s. This class was designed to make our Senior years count. I just now stumbled on notes that I took in that class wherein each class member was asked to make a comment about their current state in life. The above four comments are just some of those statements.
Desperation and sadness all around me. I recall now that the mood of this class was one of desperation and sadness as those who yearned for retirement their whole working life found themselves frantically trying to fill their days. Their feelings were summed up in these words:
- lack of purpose
- loss of self
Gerontologist, S. Barkin puts it this way regarding our responsibility to be actively walking through our senior years, and I paraphrase,
What do we want to do for the time remaining in our life? We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present and future paths.
As I mentioned in my article, Retirement planning: it’s not what you think, all of us have a history of life skills that should not be put up on a shelf and never used again. Instead we should be retooling those skills into something that is meaningful and enjoyable to us and beneficial to others. The students in my class had many thoughts – mostly unfocused and therefore not very productive – but those thoughts had yet to turn into action.
The first step is to decide what is significant to you and act on it.
Aging well starts with the mind but it’s in the doing that makes it count. We all have a choice when we find ourselves at a loss of purpose: we can stay stuck, or we can actively make a difference in the local community around us. Baby Boomers are the first generation of peoples to have such a long life span. We’re living longer so we have more time to pass our knowledge down to others and use our skills in a valuable way. As the sports company Nike says in one of their ad campaigns: JUST DO IT!
I’m thrilled that instant information rules our day for the most part and I’m SUPER thrilled that we can communicate via Blogging, but I’m also a proponent of posted/written communication.
First of all: Blogging.
I think us Bloggers relish the opportunity to “be published” on the Internet because not many of us will ever have a byline in a syndicated newspaper, and book-publishing just seems too hard a goal to attain. With that said, however, I write with this in mind: job counselors often advise employees to dress for the job they want, not for the job they currently hold, so I’m Blogging with a publishing intent that takes me out of my home-office and into the homes of others. If I can’t get others to read my articles, I may as well be writing in a personal journal. So blogging is a great venue in which to reach the masses.
But I LOVE the written word. I own a Kindle, actually, I’m on my second Kindle, and that’s the only way I read books, be they fiction or non-fiction. I’m such a voracious reader, I’m convinced Kindle was invented just for me. 🙂 So when I say I love the written word, what I’m really saying is that I love letter writing. I own stationery, n. paper and other materials needed for writing, and I have a large accordion file that holds greeting cards, n. a decorative card sent to convey good wishes. (Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004.) I love sending cards and I love receiving cards, but mostly I love sending them.
Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist wrote a piece that appeared in our local newspaper on January 13, 2012: For The Love of A Letter. She writes how wonderful it is to receive a piece of mail with our name on it, written in hand, which becomes “a bit of humanity among the bills and slick circulars.” She correctly states that the written letter is becoming a dying art, so much so that the United States Postal Service faces a very bleak, if not brief, future. Certainly e-mail is quick and doesn’t require one of those pesky, ever-changing-in-value postal stamps. Evites are quick and oh so engaging – NOT- as we read respondents’ comments about why they can’t attend. But Evites are pretty darn impersonal. Ted Kennedy Watson, owner of two Seattle shops with all things paper, states in Ms. Brodeur’s article that he “gets ‘hundreds’ of emails a day, some invitations to events that, en masse, lose some of their luster. You start to feel more included than invited.”
En masse communications – you’re simply one of the many e-mail addresses in someone’s global e-mail address book. I know we’ll always rely on this form of instant communication – I certainly do – but Ms. Brodeur hits it on the nail when she says that she hopes that “we don’t tweet or tap away the value of putting thoughts to paper, of taking the time.” (Even a “Dear John” written letter is more personal and respectful than a “Dear John” e-mail or text message.) She talks about letters that she’s saved over the years which instantly brought to mind one of my most valuable letters; one which I keep in my fireproof safe: the last letter my mother ever wrote to me. My parents still lived in Hawaii when I moved to the Seattle area in June of 1994 and my mother and I spoke on the phone at least two times a week. But it was her letters that I relished the most. One of those letters arrived in my mailbox on September 22nd, 1994. I read it, placed it to the side, and went about the rest of my day. Two days later my mother died in her sleep quite suddenly and inexplicably. When I received the news in a phone call from my father that day I frantically looked around for my mom’s letter hoping that I had not tossed it in the recycle bin. Glory hallelujiah – I had not. So two days before my mother died, I have her thoughts on paper, in her handwriting, and signed “Love, Mom” at the bottom of the second page.
Somehow I don’t think a saved e-mail could ever render the memories and the sentiments that my mother’s handwritten letter does every time I retrieve it from the safe to read it.
Facebook (I have an account) and Twitter, and other social sites can continue to do what they do, but let’s not dispense with the antiquated and/or archaic practice of putting pen to paper. Please?
Two guys, Jimmy and Johnny, were standing at heaven’s gate, waiting to be interviewed by St. Peter.
Jimmy: “How did you get here?”
Johnny: “Hypothermia. You?”
Jimmy: “You won’t believe it. I was sure my wife was cheating on me, so I came home early one day hoping to find the guy. I accused my wife of unfaithfulness and searched the whole house without any luck. Then I felt so bad about the whole thing, I had a massive heart attack.”
Johnny: “Oh, man. If you had checked the walk-in freezer, we’d both be alive.”
“Your condos aren’t ready yet. Until they’re finished, you can return to earth as anything you want.”
“Fine,” said the first minister. “I’ve always wanted to be an eagle soaring over the Grand Canyon.”
“And I’d like to be a real cool stud!” said the second minister.
Poof! Their wishes were granted.
When the condos were finished, St. Peter asked an assistant to bring back the two ministers.
“How will I find them?” the assistant said.
“One is soaring over the Grand Canyon,” St. Peter replied. “The other may be tough to locate. He’s somewhere in Detroit – on a snow tire.”
I love to write; I love to talk; but I also really, really, love to listen.
I placed this Blog entry in the Personal Struggles category of my Blog because I’m struggling to assure that what I’m providing on this Blog meets your needs and interests.
Sure, my ego would be stoked by having more Followers and more page hits – and I welcome all that have an interest – but that’s not my biggest concern. What’s missing for me is reader input in the form of Comments. A lack of comments is not the readers’ fault, rather, I think I’m missing the boat regarding the nature of my Blog entries because they don’t encourage Comments.
Are my articles too long? Are they not sufficiently pertinent to your ongoing interests? Is the subject matter too limited in scope? If so, in what direction would you like me to go? I’ll go just about anywhere with my Baby Boomer Content because I’m not an expert on a zillion topics but I am interested in at least that many.
If you have the time, I’d love to hear from you. And I can pretty much promise that I won’t be offended by any constructive criticism you provide. Society is like a bird. It has two wings, and a bird can not fly when one of its wings is broken. My wing isn’t broken, it just needs to be pointed in the right direction. I hope you’re willing to help me do so. I love what I do and cherish this venue where I can hone my skills and increase my knowledge because along with listening comes the benefit of learning something new. I can hardly wait to hear from you.
How do you define using your time in a meaningful way? If you’re getting ready for retirement – or are already retired – how are you going to spend those 40+ hours you previously filled at your job? “That’s easy!”, you say. “I’m gonna do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it: sleep in, read, play golf, travel; I’ll have no problem filling in the time!”
Now fast forward a year or two: you’re bored; your spouse is sick of you just hanging around the house; you’re feeling like there’s something more you could be doing; and even with doing whatever you’ve wanted to do, something’s missing. You wish there was more to this long sought after retirement phase of your life.
You’re not alone. The founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, Laura L. Carstensen, correctly states in a recent AARP article, that “people are happiest when they feel embedded in something larger than themselves.” As we all know, we are living longer. In order to make good use of these added years, we need to ask ourselves what we can offer others in these bonus years of our lives. Should we continue in what might be our restricted scope of the past: getting by, doing what we can for ourselves and our family, but rarely reaching out beyond that confined scope? If you feel as I do, that’s not nearly satisfying enough.
What should our lives look like now that most people spend as many years as “old people” as they do rearing children?
How should societies function when more people are over 60 than under 15?
Ms. Carstensen is certain that today’s generations of older people will set the course for decades to come and that “change will happen, one person at a time.” I personally think that too often we think that any “doing” that we do must be grandiose in scale; or remarkable and newsworthy in order to be worthwhile. If I felt that way, I don’t think I’d even make an effort to give of my skills, my time and my passion to my community. Why bother? It won’t do any good, right? WRONG!
“If every person over 50 makes a single contribution, the world could be improved immeasurably.”
Think about it: us Baby Boomers have a history of life skills that can benefit so many! How sad it would be if the engineer, the lawyer, the CPA, the household family manager, the medical professional, and other highly skilled people put those skills on the shelf, never to be used again? What a waste! I’m not saying you continue to be that engineer, lawyer, and the like in your retirement. What I am saying, however, is that your past experience, regardless of its nature, can be used for the good of others but perhaps reshaped into a different form.
The bulk of my employment experience has been in the legal field and the senior housing industry, but at this stage of my life I’m not specifically involved in being a paralegal, or a senior housing manager. What I am doing, however, is combining those skills and directing them towards areas for which I am very compassionate, e.g. advocacy for older adults, and counsel for those taking care of a loved one with dementia. You too can contribute to your local community by applying your skills in ways that benefit others and are meaningful to you. I would be of no use to anyone if I didn’t believe my personal Baby Boomer motto: Committed to strengthening my community one person at a time – not one society at a time; not one State at a time, and certainly not the world. But I can motivate myself to strengthen my community one person at a time.
At what do you excel and what do you like to do? As an older adult, perhaps retired, you now have the luxury of doing what you LIKE and WANT to do, not just what brings home steady income and puts food on the table. Whoo hoo! What a luxury!!!
LET’S TALK ABOUT THIS SOME MORE:
What are you doing now to plan for a satisfactory remainder of your life?
How are others currently benefiting from your knowledge-base and how did you find the new venue in which to share your knowledge?
If you’re retired: How satisfied are you in this stage of your life? If you’re satisfied: why? If you’re not satisfied: why not?
A woman accompanied her husband when he went for his annual checkup. While the patient was getting dressed, the doctor came out and said to the wife, “I don’t like the way he looks.”
“Neither do I,” she said, “but he’s handy around the house.”
Three doctors were on their way to a convention when their car had a flat. They got out and examined the tire. The first doctor said, “I think it’s flat.”
The second doctor examined it closely and said, “It sure looks flat.”
The third doctor felt the tire and said, “It feels like it’s flat.”
All three nodded their heads in agreement. “We’d better run some tests.”
In this Blogger’s humble opinion, I guess that’s a hint at why the health-care system is broken. Yes? No? Probably. Which leads us to the LAST JOKE of the week:
A physician went to heaven and met God, who granted him one question. So the physician asked, “Will health-care reform ever occur?”
“I have good news and bad news,” God replied. “The answer is yes, but not in my lifetime.”