Putting sand back in the hourglass……

“It’s never too late.”

Um, yes it is. I hate to add fuel to anyone’s already overactive angst, but I’ve run into this gremlin way too much this week. It hides under the bed, waiting to snap at your ankles as you get out of the bed in the morning, or huddles in your closet ready to grab your wrist as you dress for an evening out with friends.

Time is a controlled substance and a commodity that doesn’t care what you do with it. It keeps ticking away as you make decisions, no matter how valid or valuable those choices are–or not.

When we are young, the end of our life is so far away, out there in the misty future, that we waste a lot of that controlled substance. People give us advice, but we don’t listen. None of us do. Maybe we even ask people we trust for guidance, but as the decision looms closer, we do what we want, often counter to that advice. And our own best interests.

But, in reality, we presuppose that time will never run out for us. The gremlin has bitten my ankles, though, and drawn blood this week. And I never did make it to the event I was dressing for as another wizened goblin  twisted my wrist to the point of tears.

Regret is the offspring of wasted time. Wasted chances. Unfortunate choices that will never be  cleaned up, decades later, as I now recognize where the road zigged and I should have….not.

I know better now. About many things. But my biggest regret is that the sands that trickled out of the hourglass of my life–my life, for God’s sake!–can never be funneled back into that delicate vessel.

Rather than end on that desolate note, here is what I would tell young(er) people from my vantage point today:

  • Behave as if today is your last day on this spinning top. Because it might be. Think about that with dedication every morning of your life, BEFORE the goblin snaps at you.
  • Spend time now considering what kind of life you want. What kind of partner is best for you. What career fits your goals and personality. And then set your course to get those things.
  • Don’t let other people–ANYONE–live your life for you. Make choices and decisions based on what you want for you, not what will make them happy. Seeking out advice in advance is advisable, but make sure these people don’t have a stake in the outcome of their words of wisdom. Consider if they have an agenda counter to yours, and then do what is best way for you to embrace the life you want, the one you spent valuable time unearthing. (Besides, some people are idiots, let’s face it.)
  • Spend time learning to love yourself. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs understand that the fact that you are here is all that is necessary for you to be “good enough.” Period.
  • Have more fun. Laugh, be silly, watch clouds once in a while. Dance, or paint, or write, or blow bubbles every day. Whatever. Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. To realize this near the end of your life is excruciatingly dismal.

Believe me.

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Details, details….

“What’s an encyclopedia?”

The question was posed in earnest, no shame in asking, right?

What astounded me the most was that it had never occurred to me, baby boomer in full regalia, that there are  people inhabiting my  planet who had never seen one. Encyclopedia, that is.

You might have a different thought here. Why were we even discussing such a topic?

Trivia. No, the answer isn’t trivial. It was the topic of conversation that day–trivia games and our various aptitudes for bringing forth irrelevant and unimportant scraps of information, often tamped down deep in our grey matter.

I’m good at trivia. So good that many worthy combatants have gone down like a jet in a massive nosedive. Never to darken my card table again. (Yes, I do also have a problem with people disappearing from my life, but that’s a topic for another dark, vodka-steeped day.)

Anyway, I started wondering where I got all these disconnected, obscure facts. I do read–a lot–but today I devour detective novels and sappy love stories, not historical nonfiction. Even though I taught history for years, but it was to 13-year olds so it doesn’t count. I read to escape, so I know all the shades of grey and every formula for motive-means-and-opportunity.

Ah, but wait! As a kid, growing up in my house could be, well, distracting. (I was thinking of using another word, but some of those people will be reading this, so….) A therapist later told me (oops, another clue) I reverted to a soul-saving technique called “duck and cover.” And my activity while I was cowering, er, I mean covering, was to read the encyclopedia. In my room, curled up on my bed to make myself as tiny as I could be. Maybe that way they couldn’t see me, right?

I must have filed all that A-Z data in a lockbox way behind my ears. And when the trivia games heat up, the skeleton key to the box magically appears with a flourish and I WIN! I’m as surprised as my opponents when those answers fly out of me, unbidden.

Young people don’t know, have never even seen, the 24-volume set of books containing the knowledge of the world, right there for anyone–including little girls hiding under the covers–to devour.  So, how do we preserve concepts like this for today’s devotees of Google? They carry the uber-encyclopedia around with them in a pocket or their hand and don’t have any historical frame of reference for it.

Astounding. Or is it like schools that don’t teach handwriting any more? Does it really matter?

Trivia anyone? Like, aren’t there 26 letters in the alphabet?

A……Haiket?

 A Haiku*—or two:

Being older means

looking back and wondering

which wrong turn mattered.

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had not turned away

from this road—or that?

 
 

Or if I had let

my head-strong will and my heart

have equal footing?

 
 

Would it have mattered

if I had taken control

and embraced MY dream?

 
 

Being mature means

seeing with clearer vision,

what truly matters.

 
 

It can also mean

embracing a new vision—

Embracing one’s heart.

 
 

Today, I look back

and see that multiple paths

rose up before me.

 
 

Some say “no regrets.”

I say we don’t learn the truth

by ignoring it.

 
 

Being mature means

Finding peace from knowing

My life is…as is.

_________________________________________________________________________________

*Haiku is a very structured form of poetry that originated in Japan. I choose to write in the traditional style of Haiku for the discipline demanded from its structure:

First line = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Second line = 7 (and ONLY 7) syllables

Third = 5 (and ONLY 5) syllables

Traditionally, also, Haiku is meant to be a snapshot of something in nature. A butterfly resting on a rose. The sunrise. A flower dancing in the evening breeze, awash in its mysterious scent. Any Haiku I have written to date follows this dictate for the most part.

For a writer who normally runs on and on (meaning me), this is first an exercise in being succinct and precise. I love it! In most cases, though, Haiku is simply ONE set of three lines: 5-7-5. Being me, though, I have chosen to string together a series of “Haikus” into one cohesive “Haiket.” There….I invented a new form of poetry!

I have also been indulgent here, and used this beautiful art form to reflect my soul as I move into–and through, because we are never done– the status of Active Master. We do not stop desiring or hoping or striving as we age. People who say we do are, well, boring and have probably always been that way.

We are simply more wrinkled as we do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will it be?

retirement_road

As I moved through the first day of my retirement, everyone kept asking me what I had done all day, as if my work day had to be supplanted with something. Right?

Our society is fueled by work. We learn a trade as young adults and then we practice that brand of work in order to earn the currency that is traded for it. That currency then is traded for our lives. Literally. We eat, we have a roof to sleep under, we clothe ourselves. So, we must then work some more to sustain the whole thing.

Is it any surprise to anyone, then, that we align our entire identity with the most visible talisman of our worth? The one that sustains and insures that the wheels stay on the track of our existence?

When we stop working, what happens to the whole system then? In the case of retirement (because there are people who intentionally jump ship earlier on purpose), we have traded all that currency as long as is necessary in our society, and hopefully have enough to sustain us throughout. Until we die.

Maybe that’s the rub. We realize that our end is breathing down our necks, a salivating beast that we cannot hope to outrun. Many people avoid retirement at all costs, fearing what lies on the other side of that alarm clock that jangles them awake at the crack of dawn.

Others fill it up with more work. We’ll see how I do.

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”
Vince Lombardi

 

 

 

Retirement 101: Who ARE you?

retirement flip flops

What is your immediate response when someone asks, “Tell me about you”?

Go ahead. Answer that question. Quick! I’ll wait.

I bet the first piece of information you share–and probably the first one you even though of–was your job. You are a teacher, or an attorney, or a DJ, or a retail clerk.

But what happens when that magical, golden moment called “retirement” arrives at the end of your driveway….the one you no longer have to leave at the crack of dawn? Even partially, when you have the ability to leave your primary profession and cut back a bit? Maybe work just enough to keep fun money in your pocket for travel, bird watching, or dance lessons?

Who are you then?

I am about to find out. Join me as I enter this new world, the one where I will find out if I have an identity apart from my work.

See you tomorrow! After all, I don’t have anywhere to go.

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying

about getting caught at it. ~Gene Perret

 

 

18 days……

I think our capacity for life increases right along with our waist line as we age. That’s got to be it, right?

If you had told me six months ago that I would be getting up at 4:50 every morning to get to a full-time job 25 miles away from my nice warm bed, I would have had some choice words for you. It had been over 10 years since I had been in a regimented schedule, one that took me away from my morning sanctuary on my outside patio, complete with pot-bellied stove, visiting birds, coffee, and my newspaper.

But life plays tricks on us. That doesn’t seem to stop, either, as we age. I wish I could tell my young friends otherwise; but let’s look at the rainbow side of this equation.

I am finding new reserves of adaptability and calmness in the midst of this new challenge, and I can’t help but think that my acquired wisdom—the knowledge gathered and stored like a squirrel’s stash of nuts for the winter—is supporting me now.

I have always had issues with depression in the morning. Every day. EVERY. DAY. It is a miracle that I ever kept a job of any kind, if it required rising before dawn, moving with purpose, and getting somewhere on time. I think that’s the definition of most jobs, right? Throw in doing all of that as a single parent from the time my daughter was about 4, and then showing up to face a roomful of teenagers who didn’t want to be there, either, and it’s a miracle to me now that I didn’t allow the depression to win.

But, we do what we have to. That was the mantra in our house, one that my now-adult daughter lives by, too. You just do it. You get up and you move. The depression always lifted after an hour or so, something I came to understand and accept. No thinking allowed, simply face it head on, step into it and then come out the other side. Where the sun is shining again and life doesn’t look so dreary and hopeless. (And stay away from the telephone to call in sick; I would never have gone to work at all if I had succumbed to that quotidian instinct!)

A few months ago I found myself in need of temporary work to escort me through the transition to semi-retirement, something I never believed I would be able to do. But, life also surprises us in other ways, too, especially if we trust ourselves and the organization of the universe. When I was offered a financially sound opportunity to move me through that transition, I embraced it, even though it requires that I witness the sunrise each morning from my car. On the Interstate, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. With no time to read the paper before I go.

It is a struggle. But I am pulling from all those years of “just doing it.” In this case, I know there is a specific end in sight—18 days, give or take—which will make the not doing it any more that much more delectable.

We tend to cherish even more that which is taken from us….and then returned.

“Happiness is not the absence of problems,

it’s the ability to deal with them.”

― Steve Maraboli

A two way conversation……

“The good writers touch life often.”

Ray Bradbury

There are a couple of things at work here, the “here” designated as the tension created when I write and no one reads it. Or at least, I have no way of knowing if they do or not, which I guess is the same thing from my perspective.

Do writers engage in their craft to be read (and thus, appreciated) or because they are compelled to write? As in all things, I’m sure the answer varies with the person, but for the most part, the writers I know must write. It seems to be part of our DNA, this constant need to observe and then document the world around us.

For myself, writing sorts out my emotions, forces me to unravel the errant threads of life that don’t fit anywhere, until I can stitch them all in place with my words. Much of what I write is never read by anyone other than me; it would scare too many people.

How do I reconcile that, then, with the fact that it hurts when people don’t read the work I DO put out there? One of my friends, also a writer, asked me that the other night. I don’t have a ready answer, I just know that it tickles me when I look at the stats page the day after I post a blog (alright, the hour after) and I see the number of views has increased. And the best gift you can give me is to comment on what I have written.

Does that make me needy? Narcissistic, as a young friend accused when I tried to explain this aberrant behavior?

Oh, you were waiting for an answer?

I don’t have one. The best I can do is this: I must write. It is a part of who I am. But, my choice of topics to share with an audience has a purpose.

Aging in this country is not pretty, so I decided to offer my experiences, and the lessons taught through those events, with two audiences: younger people who might learn from my own struggle to remain relevant, and those my age for a good laugh at ourselves. My immediate impetus was how many times I found myself exclaiming, “Why didn’t someone tell me about this??”

There have been other topics, too, such as my journey to become complaint-free. (That one was certainly good for a laugh by all ages.)

Have you ever left a succession of voice mails on someone’s machine with no return calls….ever? Publishing one’s words with no feedback is kind of like that.