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Do YOU celebrate?

Do YOU celebrate?

Night before last, I went to a funny, holiday-themed play at a community theater with a group of friends.  On the way home, I learned that two of the women with us were turning 80 within a few days of each other at the end/beginning of the year.  They are both vibrant, engaged, and living real lives.  I had to admit I was surprised.  (We have the stereotypes on this so wrong as a society!)

What was more interesting though was how they were seeing the milestone.  The difference between the two of them could not have been more dramatic.  One was going to San Diego (from the Seattle area) for two weeks of assorted celebrating.  She was excited about the coming decade and ready for it to be her “best decade” just as her grandmother had admitted of her 70’s a generation before.

The other was dreading it.

They are both virtually the same age.  Are they going to have the same quality of life?

The “dreader” saw the need to redirect herself as we finished the ride, which is the great news in this.  But what about the ones who don’t get the innoculation of someone else’s happier approach?

You’re gonna turn 80 either way (at least if you are lucky enough to get that far).  Seeing the pluses is a whole lot more fun.  And ignoring the ridiculously inaccurate set of expectations we are bombarded with from the culture is critical.

I always make a big deal over the “zero” birthdays.  It’s my excuse to do something particularly grand and/or self-loving when they are mine.  I also love to mark 75 for women friends.  Party, fresh flower crown, BIG deal fun.

But celebrating doesn’t have to be reserved for certain birthdays.   There are unique milestones that also warrant some festivity.  (At the moment, I am looking forward to the last day of my online dating subscription….)

What does celebrating accomplish?  At its very core, a celebration says “There are things going on in  my life.  I have completed something important.  And I am happy about that.”

It also says “Life is good!”

But the most important thing it says is “I am not done yet!”  Oh yeah.  I will celebrate that again and again and again.

Are You in Retirement Jail?

Are You in Retirement Jail?

Okay, you’ve been retired for long enough that you’ve done all the things you “didn’t have time for” plus a few.  None of it is as exciting as it used to be.  The “good life” seems like it’s outside a window with bars, and all you get in your own day is weak gruel and the tantalizing but unreachable view of that beyond.  What happened?

Retirement was supposed to be this glorious never-ending vacation.  You could do whatever you wanted.  Go when you wanted.  Sleep in.  Hang out.  Let up.  It’s all about you you you, and it was going to be soooo lovely.  What happened?

Relax.  This is normal.  The traditional version of retirement works at first, for most of us anyway.  Then, for a lot of us, it doesn’t anymore.  All those versions of play get stale and depressing, bereft of meaning and woefully short on a sense of connection.  Why?  Because humans are wired for more than that.  We need to be productive members of a tribe–working together to solve problems that have an impact beyond our own day-to-day needs.  All this “go off and play by yourselves” can be toxic in high doses–sometimes within a year of retirement.


Well…  First, realize that “retirement” is not this homogenous string of days stretching to the end of your life with the same fun the same way with the same people.  The counterpoint to that is also not true.  You aren’t meant to spend all day every day doing work other people need done–but without pay–because you “have time”.

Retirement is likely to be a big chunk of your life and has stages within the stage itself.  The initial years are usually about “doing all the things I didn’t have time for when I was working”.  That may be learning something you’ve always been intrigued by or traveling to places you’ve wanted to see or just sitting on the deck drinking coffee (or a glass of wine…) while your former coworkers slog through traffic.  It may be all of the above and more, including getting involved in some kind of volunteer work to “give back.”

Typically, this evolves to a second stage though.  Some of those interests don’t pan out.  Travel starts to become “same old same old,” and the volunteering gig goes sour for whatever reason (lack of stimulating work, difficult organizational dynamics, or a change in the direction of the entity with whom you are involved, for example).

No need to panic.  It’s just time to rework the plan. THIS is what an effective retirement strategy is best at–acknowledging when what you’ve planned is not what you need and doing the work to come up with something that is.

When we walk out the door of work for the last time, we don’t know where the health monsters lurk.  We don’t know what we’ll like of what we want to try.  We don’t know what’s ahead with our relationships.  (They aren’t static.   At some point, someone you’ve been with will either die or leave or someone you didn’t expect will walk in and take a place in your heart.) You don’t know who you might meet, if a best friend will move away, or whether you’ll decide you need to move yourself for whatever reason.  All these things are part of life.  Ignoring them is what puts you in that jail.

The standard assumption is that what’s outside the original plan is always negative.  Let’s take a better look at that.  If what you thought would satisfy you doesn’t (like playing golf three times a week when you really only need one round to scratch that itch), do something else.  You know more now that you’ve been living the plan.  It’s time to look at “What do I want to do now?” again.  And this time, the answer just might be quieter, more serene, and probably more focused on community, connection, and commitment, than the grand adventures of the first stretch of this stage of life.  Or you might decide you need to be more adventuresome.  The point is that you need to ask yourself and then listen for what you heart tells you.

Life changes on a dime at this point.  That’s not all bad.  To thrive, we need to keep growing to our very last breath.  Starting over (again….and again) is an excellent way to do that.

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

It’s time to admit something important. At some point, someone is going to have to deal with your “stuff”. We don’t seem to be aware of this as we keep adding belongings.  Clutter is just a fact of life, right?

We keep stuff for all kinds of reasons–  “I might need it…”  “It was Grandma’s…” “I might decide to go back into that…”  But the ongoing accumulation of “things” is a slow motion disaster.  A few weeks ago, a woman in Connecticut was killed when the floor of her house collapsed—because of the weight of the stuff she had on it.  They didn’t find her until two days later; the volume was so massive that it looked like the floor was still there when the police checked initially.

That’s an extreme case, but we’re all affected by “stuff.” If you haven’t had to deal with someone else’s after they’ve died, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. But here’s the deal. If you can’t face dealing with it, how can someone else—who knows a whole lot less about it–manage to do it after you’re gone?

My family just went through this. Six siblings plus a dear and unflinching sister-in-law hauled load after load out of my youngest brother’s 900-square-foot home for five full days. We got rid of over 100 cubic yards of “stuff.” Don’t naively assume it was just a case of walking it to the dumpster again and again either. Landfills have rules these days. You must dispose of electronics, assorted batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, oil-based paint, other hazardous materials, etc. in very specific ways—or face a fine. There’s a whole different routine for latex paint. Plus, if those doing the disposing have half a conscience about environmental stewardship, there will be trips to the local food bank, Goodwill or a similar second-hand store, and perhaps the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to donate appropriate “stuff.” And there will be lots of trips to the recycle center.

Accumulated “stuff” is not the benign, minor flaw we want to believe it is. Letting stuff you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t care about pile up leaves less space, resources, and time for what could bring you joy now. Holding onto too many things from the past means you don’t have faith in the present–or the future. It’s also a waste of money if you’re insuring, maintaining, paying for space to keep, and otherwise lavishing resources on all that “stuff.”

My loved one didn’t set out to leave a huge mess for the rest of us to clean up. He felt he needed everything he acquired. That’s how we usually amass stuff…a teeny bit at a time, time after time. But “stuff” doesn’t go away on its own. Somebody is going to have to deal with it eventually.

All six of us siblings came home vowing “I’m not going to do that to anybody!” so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do make getting rid of my “stuff” less of a burden when I depart. Everyone’s list will be unique, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Clean out the file drawers! Going through files is huge time sink for next of kin, and I can find most of what I’m keeping online if I do need it.
2. Make sure my kids really want what I’m keeping for them.
3. Whenever I learn someone needs what I’ve discovered I have (and don’t need), give it to them.
4. Mark the contents of boxes I do keep. Include a “Get rid of after ___” date to avoid going through boxes again myself when I can.
5. Donate to the food bank from my pantry. (This gets food I bought for a unique reason and then didn’t use onto someone’s plate rather than sitting on my pantry shelf until it expires.)
6. Dispose of the old paint immediately when I repaint. (But do keep the new paint for repairs.)
7. Be honest with stuff I get as gifts. If I’m not going to use it, return it, donate it, or regift it.
8. Remove anything I haven’t worn in the last year from my closet. Donate what I’m willing to part with. Put the rest in a separate stack. If I don’t wear it in another 12 months, donate it then.
9. Go through my bookshelves quarterly. Pass on anything I don’t expect to read again.
10. Leave notes for my loved ones about what’s what and how to get rid of it.

I want to do this right. From what I’ve seen lately, it’s a really good way to say “I love you.”


Find SOMETHING to Celebrate

Find SOMETHING to Celebrate

We tend to save our non-holiday celebration efforts for rare occasions–college graduations, golden wedding anniversaries, and the like.  That’s too bad because celebrating is good for all of us—both the person being feted and those doing the hurrah.  It’s not always necessary to make it a big elaborate deal either.

In the last two weeks, I have been to a wedding, a funeral, and two birthday parties. Let’s start with the wedding.

This is one of those official “rare occasions” but these kids were onto something a lot of us miss when planning that event.  This wedding was definitely designed to be a party.  The young couple was happy to be committing to each other and wanted everyone to be happy with them.  Our job as guests for the evening:  Have a good time.

Even the ceremony itself, performed by a funny yet legally authorized friend, was light hearted.  Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, but frequently, they become high-stress, major productions.  Instead of a fun party, you end up observing an unfolding effort to make everything go perfectly.   Leave the big productions for Bollywood. Whatever you want to celebrate, focus on the fun rather than the fanfare.

The funeral was for a relative who died at the age of 85 after several years of horrible health.  In my younger years, funerals were solemn events full of fervent prayer for the person who’d died.  Now we celebrate life rather than mourning death—a vast improvement for all concerned.  We spent the time together remembering her in her prime and reliving the fun of years past.

The first birthday party was for a dear friend who turned 75 this year.  Turning 75 really means something to me.  It’s the time when the rest of us get to  acknowledge that the birthday girl or boy has earned their Merit Badge as a wise person.  Sounds like a great reason for a party to me!

The one we planned for this friend was designed as a surprise.  And we actually pulled that off!  This was a group of hikers.  We usually dress ready to hit the trail.  It was fun just to see everyone gussied up.

The first gift the birthday girl received was a crown of real flowers.  (A flower crown makes you feel pretty dang special.  I learned this as the recipient at a surprise party when I turned 59.) She ended up fielding questions from strangers at the restaurant about what was going on for the entire evening, but that was also part of the fun.  Our friend was radiant, and we all were happy together.

The other birthday party?  My own.  It was staged by my three-year old granddaughter.  I’d agreed to watch her and her six-month-old sister while her parents went to a class a few days after my birthday.  My son had taken the time to make chocolate cupcakes and luscious chocolate frosting before they left, but how we put them together and what we did with them was up to my older granddaughter and me.  She took the lead.

First, we had to be sure there was going to be dessert.  She announced at the beginning of dinner that she was going to be a member of the Clean Plate Club that night and she followed through on that.  After dinner, we carefully slathered two cupcakes with the frosting.  Then she insisted we needed candles.  Oh great.  How was I going to come up with them?  She confidently went to the “junk” drawer and found one.  Then she coached me until I found another.  (We had to have two so she could blow one out along with me.)  We put the candles in the cupcakes, I lit them, and she proceeded to sing the entire Happy Birthday song to me.  We blew out our candles.  Then we lit them again and sang the whole song to her.  What a perfect party!

No matter what the situation, there is something to celebrate—something to be happy about.  Sometimes it’s a formal event.  Sometimes it’s a cupcake with a three-year-old.  Sometimes, it’s just clicking your orange juice glasses at the breakfast table  to acknowledge that the sun is out and we have another day together.

Celebrating marks that moment as happy.  It reminds us that life is good—whether it’s happy stories about an 85 year-old loved one who’s just passed or a pre-school graduation.  Celebrating is about giving—recognition, laughter, and the shared happiness of seeing someone accomplish a milestone.  It’s the pinnacle of being “connected.”

Let’s not wait for the super special occasions.  Celebrate something.  Soon.

Beginnings Are Messy

Beginnings Are Messy

The farther you move through life, the more tempting it is to want to have everything under control.  Bad plan.  That strategy is a nice straight road to boredom.  Being a beginner until the day you die is an important piece of creating a good life.  And beginnings are not controlled situations.  Beginnings are messy.

When you move, things are total chaos for a while.  When you start an art project, everything you might need gets hauled out of drawers and closets.  To renovate your yard, you usually create a mud bog at some point in the process.

To make something better, most often, you need to make a total mess of what you already have.

And that’s okay.

In fact, it may be an essential piece of appreciating what you have once you’ve completed the change.  My mom’s yearly version of this process was the family camping trip.  Dad was great about getting everything needed by a family of nine packed in–and on–the car, getting us there, getting the tent set up, etc.  He was really good at making order of the inevitable chaos.

Mom, however, was better at appreciating the chaos.  “Going camping” was our vacation and that meant new adventures for us kids and the chance to break from the routine for our parents.  But “going camping” also made us all appreciate that routine when we got home and had everything put away.

The disruption and confusion of going in a new direction can be unnerving–and almost always is when you change anything significant.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it.  It’s just wise to realize what you’re getting into.

Beginnings involve going in the wrong direction.  When  you start something new, even if you have a full set of instructions (which most things in life don’t have), you make mistakes because the whole idea is new and a challenge to grasp.  Mistakes are every bit as much a part of getting things to go the way you want as the things you get right the first time.  Wrong turns help define the context of what you’re doing and help make it work well.  They’re most valuable if you use them–figure out what they’ve taught you and then move past them.  But if you can’t get that far about what went wrong, at least relax about the fact that they happen.  When you start something new, there are going to be mistakes.  Sometimes lots of them.

Beginnings usually involve a few restarts.  Thinking that it’s going to be smooth sailing from the get-go just invites frustration.  Redirects are inevitable. Sometimes, you don’t even know where you are trying to go when you start out.   And when you need to change course, you often need to just plain stop before you do so.  So if the project doesn’t keep going at a steady pace, don’t be surprised.  And for heaven’s sake don’t get all torqued about it.  Starting something new takes courage.  Finishing something new takes patience and tolerance–for clutter, confusion, and starting again….and sometimes again and again.

Beginnings often don’t look like beginnings.  Starting in a new direction is often disguised as something old ending.  This probably makes the messiness of a beginning even harder to endure.  When what you had worked for  you and was not something you wanted to change, it’s very hard to get on with the messiness of starting over.  That old reliable version of life was…well…yours, whether it was with a mate who died–or left, a job you lost, or health you took for granted. Pining for what was makes getting on with what’s next a lot more difficult.  Letting go of what you don’t have any more and stepping into the chaos of a new start is the only way to get on with your life.

Know that the disruption is essential and temporary. It’s easy to begin to feel like the turmoil is never going to go away, but that’s not what’s going on.  Psychologically, being able to predict what’s going to happen is as calming as being able to control it.   Reminding yourself that there’s an end point to the chaos gives you that predictability.

Beginnings are essential.   Beginnings can be intimidating simply because of the disorder and confusion they engender.  Begin anyway.  Having a good life is not a matter of having everything under control.  You need to keep your world expanding and to do that, you have to begin something new.  Again and again and again.


Planning — How Much Is Enough?

Planning — How Much Is Enough?

Planning is an interesting challenge for most of us. We either plan too much or plan too little.  (And we tend to make fun of those at the opposite end of the spectrum no matter which we are guilty of.)  Is one right and the other wrong?  And if so, which is which?

The truth is in the middle, of course.  How thoroughly we plan needs to be a function of what it is we are trying to get done.  But even that can be a matter of perspective.

If I showed you a photo of a bunch of vertical furroughs and said “We need to get to the top of this,” how would you make it happen?  Would you know what you were dealing with?  It’s easy to get deep into the details of things and miss what’s involved at a broader level.

In this particular case, the broader perspective paints a much different picture of what we are trying to do.  Getting to “the top of this” is not a matter of running up one of the furrows.  Getting to the top of Devils Tower takes climbing skill, specialized gear, and multiple conversations with the folks at the climber registration desk.  So the first thing to decide when you think about planning anything should be, “Just what am I looking at here?”

Christmas tasks come to mind on this.  We focus on buying the perfect gifts, trimming the tree, decorating the house, getting the outside lights up, remembering to buy eggnog ad nauseam and totally lose track of the basic idea of the season–“joy to the world.”

Planning can make life simpler if you use it at the right times.  It can also make life a whole lot more difficult if you get carried away.  The best example of the latter that I can point to is a family vacation I took long ago with my then husband, my two sons, (ages 12 and 16 at the time) and my then 11 year-old stepdaughter.  The intent was to fly to San Francisco to visit family and see the sights.  I planned the whole nine days to a gnat’s eyelash—and insisted on doing exactly what we planned to do exactly when we had predetermined we were going to do it.  It was awful, and it was all my sweet little planner-manic fault.  What a waste of a good time.

Too little planning isn’t much better though.  Traveling without any plan means you’re looking for a motel room when you’re dog tired and wanting to already be in it.  (You usually end up with worse accommodations at a much higher price if you do this, too–at least from my extensive road trip experience.)  Or maybe you show up in town the week after an event you would have loved to be part of has occurred—that was plastered all over the website if you’d bothered to take a look.  It might also mean you don’t have the resources—time, money, or vacation days–to do the dream thing when you finally notice that the opportunity exists.

Finding the right blend of planning and not planning is part of our life-long quest for balance.  You need to know what you have to work with and what you are trying to do—to have some idea of where you’re trying to go.  That’s the planning. But you also need to leave room for serendipity and magic.  That’s non-planning.  Remember that as you gear up for your next project.  Having the right balance gives much better results.

A few years ago, I was sending a friend hiking photos on a regular basis because he couldn’t get out on the trail.  The hiking opportunities are slim in early spring in the Pacific Northwest.  Plus, no matter where you hike, your photos will be mostly shades of gray.  So I decided to create a colorful photo. It was Easter Sunday.  I’d learned to “tie dye” eggs with food coloring and foil a few years earlier and chose that as my “medium.”  That was the “planning” part.  I could have just put them on plastic grass in an Easter basket for the photo.  But by nestling those wild eggs in what was available at the moment (the unplanned aspect)–in this case some newly blooming rock cress–I had a much more spectacular photo to send.

Planning is a tool, not the whole point of the effort.  So remember these four things:
  *  Don’t plan what you can’t control.  (It won’t go the way you want anyway.)
  *  Leave room for magic and last minute detours.
  *  If the plan becomes a burden, simplify it.
  *  Plan only for important outcomes; learn to enjoy doing things on the fly.

That should give you the best of both worlds…and you’ll thrive whether your plans are with planners or non-planners.


Kindness: The Low Cost Miracle Cure

Kindness: The Low Cost Miracle Cure

Try a little kindness when things aren’t going well. It’s amazing what you can get back on track with just a little dose—as the giver rather than the receiver.

For some reason, kindness tends to take a back seat when difficulties mount and that’s too bad.  That’s when we need to use it most—and I do mean give it not get it.  (Though being on the receiving end is nice….)

Being kind is not a matter of having money to throw around.  It’s more a case of noticing what you can give—a smile, a nod of recognition, your place in line if you really aren’t in a hurry.  Kindness is a simple, effective way to connect with the rest of the world.  And that, quite often, is what we need, even if the pain comes in different packaging—like a frustrating job search, bad news from the doctor, or mean-spiritedness from someone in your life.

One of my best experiences with the magic of simple kindness was in Scotland almost two decades ago.  I went out for a walk one morning in Edinburgh and passed a white-haired man also out for a morning walk.  I smiled at him.  Then came the magic.  I didn’t just get a simple smile in return.  The man’s whole face lit up with appreciation at being acknowledged as a fellow human.  Him showing me that moment of happiness made me delightfully happy.  All in literally seconds, with just the use of a few facial muscles.

That’s the biggest deal about kindness.  It’s not something you “do for someone else.”  Yes, your effort is usually extended toward someone else, but the benefits go both ways.  I smile again every time I think of that man’s reaction.  I feel good about being human and being alive again and again because of that one experience—where I made the easy effort to connect by smiling at him.

This isn’t just something to do in large, sophisticated foreign cities on morning walks.  Opportunities for little acts of kindness abound for all of us every day.  Pulling the neighbor’s garbage can out of the road when it blew there.  Trying to keep your car as far as you can from the cyclist you’re passing on a city street.   Letting mistakes go unmentioned when noting them is not going to improve the outcome.

So much of our energy these days seems to be focused on making sure other people know there’s something wrong with them.  Congress for sure.  But even with friends.  A dear woman I’ve been hiking with for over five years told me Sunday that my feet turn too far out when I walk.  What was the point of that observation?  (They’ve been this way for 65 years, and I walk fine unless I try to turn them in the way hers go.)

What would happen if we started an epidemic of kindness?  I’m not talking about huge acts of generosity like funding schools or building hospitals in Somalia.  If each of us decided to do five small acts of kindness everyday, my how things would change!

In part, we’d all feel better about ourselves, I suspect.  Most of those “this is wrong with you” comments stem from I-don’t-feel-so-good-about-myself thoughts.  Rather than trying to build yourself up by knocking someone else, do something kind.  It doesn’t even have to be for that person.  The resulting sense of peace alone is worth the effort.  Plus that other person might then be motivated to do some other kindness.

Kindness affects the receiver but defines the giver:  “I am well enough off that I can be kind.”  That sense of abundance doesn’t flow from the size of your investment account.  It comes from the strength of your character.  We can all be rich enough to be kind.  We just have to choose it.  Every day.

Retirement for Couples

Retirement for Couples

When you’re spending most of your waking hours at work, spending 24/7 with your spouse or partner sounds like heaven. It’s not that simple once it’s time to actually pull it off.

One of the the most unexpected challenges of retirement planning is figuring out how to do it together.  I’m not talking about synchronizing departure dates and retirement party calendars.  I’m talking about how to create a mutually satisfying new lifestyle once work is no longer the central focus of your lives.  And if you are a single-earner couple, this might be even more challenging than if both of you are giving up outside work.

The surprising truth is that while one–or both–of you was enmeshed in getting the job done as a career, the other was doing something else.  And that “something else” is just as important as your own job when you plan for what comes next.  Assuming all you need to decide is when you stop working is like deciding you are going to have fish for dinner because you got your fishing pole out of the attic.

The key, of course, is honest conversation. That, too, is not as easy is you might want to believe. If you are expecting to resume the carefree fun of when you first fell in love without any effort, please stop and take a look at reality. Neither of you is the person who said “I do” (or even “I would if I could”) so long ago. To get to the good stuff in the future with this person, you need to figure out what’s going on now. With her (or him). With you. With the living situation you’ve been content with for the last umpteen years.

There are a few questions you’ll need to find pretty solid answers to if you want to get this right.

Who am I? A lot of who you really are has gotten buried under what you have had to do to make a living and function as a responsible adult. Getting a solid sense of what the Real You needs to thrive once you retire is going to be a bigger job than going back to the guitar lessons you gave up when you started med school. Find a way to help yourself explore who you are now. (Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love has an extensive number of fun exercises to help you do that.)

Who is she/he? (your spouse/partner) Unless you have been having long, deep conversations about personal needs and dreams for years, you have a lot to learn about your sweetheart before you step into the next phase of your lives together. This is not the same person you married (or committed to). Your buddy for retirement is that person plus all the experience, insight, and foibles acquired between then and now. Assuming she or he is still the same innocent angel when s/he’s been negotiating deals for the non-profit s/he volunteers with is naive. Plus, we change as we age and our hormones rearrange themselves. Women tend to become a bit more assertive, and guys are more inclined to nurture than when we were younger. New stuff all around.

What is important–to each of you? It’s really really important to figure this out. It’s also really really important not to assume you know what’s important to your significant other. Many who have served in support roles are ready to step up to challenges they design for themselves. Some who have been “top dog” are ready to be the support for those who have had their back for decades. But not all. What’s important is unique for each of us. Effectively combining your priorities and your “other’s” for a satisfying new lifestyle depends on each of you knowing what they are for both of you.

How/what do you want to change? What do you like and want to keep or add? What do you want to not have to do anymore? Figure this out.

How/what does she/he want to change? Same deal for your sweetie. You can’t have it all your way all the time. Find the give-and-take and get creative in finding ways to include both sets of dreams.

What are your trade-offs?” Okay, this is something we need to be very candid about. Sometimes, not only do you not get what you want, you don’t get any sympathy for even wanting it. Be authentic in what you decide to do about that. If she (or he) absolutely refuses to do something you want to do, assess where your trade-offs are. Is keeping her (or him) happy more important to you than what you wanted to do? Is doing it on a less grand scale as a solo adventure while she (or he) does something else a good compromise? What are you willing to forego for the sake of keeping the relationship on solid ground? What do you truly have to have to be true to yourself?

Where are the log jams? This is the one that no one wants to admit might occur. Either we will agree happily in the first place or we will work in out. But sometimes, that’s not where the conversation goes. In fact sometimes, the conversation goes nowhere simply because the other person doesn’t want to talk about whatever it is that IS the log jam.

What you do in that situation is a function of three things: How much do you want to stay with that person? How hard would it be to go around the objection to do what you want/need to do anyway? How much of an imbalance are you willing to settle for? The situation may change over time, but if the person you love isn’t willing to look at retirement planning issues now, you need to decide what that means for you. (For the record, taking important topics of conversation “off the table” when the other partner wants to discuss them is a form of verbal abuse.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg on living well as a couple as we age. But starting with the tip will at least let you know which way the thing is floating.

Do the Next Thing

Do the Next Thing

Whether it’s building a business, finding a job, creating the life you really want, the best advice is “Do the next thing.”  Too often, we do one thing and stop.  Then we wait for the reaction on that thing–the email or phone call expressing interest, the dreaded form rejection letter, the suggestion that a prospective client wants to hear more.

Doing it that way means you spend a lot of your time waiting for what someone else may or may not do.  Waiting is a passive process.  So you lose momentum.  And you feel less effective because…well..nothing’s happening while you are doing all that waiting.

In other cases, you capitalize on one opportunity and call it good.  The chance to speak to a group or have coffee with someone who’s willing to mentor you.  Instead of using that as a springboard for doing more things, we consider ourselves done once we’ve written the thank you note.

Why do we do this?  I think it’s because it’s easier to handle life in little tidbits–to do one thing and then…well….rest.   The problem with this approach is that you start from the point of inertia every time and have to work up the moxie to do that one thing again and again.  You have to talk yourself into it and then get yourself going over and over.

If you look for the next thing with everything you do, you don’t have that acceleration challenge because you’re already moving.  You don’t have to talk yourself into it because you’re still finishing the last thing so you’re already in “do it” mode.

But even better, those “next things” can hold some pretty fun magic.  A year ago,  a career counselor on the other side of the country contacted me about reviewing my book on her blog.  Of course, I was delighted to send a review copy, and she did a wonderful write-up of what I had to say.   End of story, right?

Not really.  After I thanked her for the review, I decided I needed to check out her website more thoroughly.  Among the many things she offers there were links to TV shows she’d done interviewing people who had switched careers after 50 and were thriving.  One  interview in particular intrigued me, and I asked her to e-introduce me to that person.  She graciously agreed.

Then the “next thing” was to contact him.  When I did, I discovered he was looking for experts to write for his web-based business.  In particular, he was looking for somene to cover the business perspective of employing older workers.  That’s an angle I’d been trying to find a way to work for a year.  Perfect.  And that was it, right?  Nope.

The next thing?  Well, there were two.  Through that contact I met another expert who’s focused on people who start their own businesses after 50.  That gave me another angle from which to promote better use of our “retirement” years, another way to expand my knowledge base, and one more platform for increasing my visibility.

The second thing?  I got a request to be a keynote speaker for a conference on the topic because of the articles I’ve been writing from the business perspective.

Here’s the point:  None of these opportunities would have developed had I not gone beyond “thank you” with the woman who offered to review my book.  Stopping at the first thing means you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

Doing the next thing gives you a sense of both control and movement.  Those are both vital and rare.

Do the next thing no matter what you are trying to do.  Go beyond what has to be done.  Look for what else might be worth the effort.  It will increase your chances of success dramatically.  And it will be more fun than waiting for the phone to ring or the tone that announces a new e-mail to chime on your computer.


Lonely, Blue, and 50+

Lonely, Blue, and 50+

It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when life sucks and no one even notices.   It’s probably even easier at 50+.  But we’re big kids now and our fun—and a meaningful life—isn’t someone else’s job.  The “good life” is up to each of us individually.  You may think you’re doing all the right things to make friends and attract a special someone into your life.  But if it’s not happening, look at what you’re telling yourself.

“I’m bored…” 

Well, it’s good to notice this.  It’s bad to sit around waiting for someone else to fix it.  “Bored” is a danger signal.  You need to keep your world expanding to thrive.  Boredom means you aren’t doing that.  Figure out what interests you and pursue it.

Boredom is the first clue to understanding why you can’t make friends, find a sweetheart, or create that good life you’re yearning for, too.  Admitting that you’re bored with what you have going is a good step.  Continuing down that path is settling for being boring.  Boring is not interesting.  If you want a life, be interested—which makes you interesting.

“I want someone to…” 

Are you putting this in terms of what other people are supposed to do for you?  “I want a man to take care of me” is just plain lazy on many levels.  Same deal for “I want a woman to hang out with me.”  Why should other people want to be around you if you just want to use them?  If you want more in your life, you need to do the work to get it there.  Which means you need to be ready to give as well as receive.

The best way to find friends is to take that scary step of going solo to groups who do the things you want to be part of.  An organization probably already exists for what you want to do—some of them explicitly for singles.  Travel.  Sports.  Hobbies.  You name it.

Do some research online.  Check out the local listings of social groups.  And talk to people.   You might find your all-time favorite venue for rock ‘n roll dancing by talking to a guy at a singles dance.  (I did.)  Once you find the group, get active.  Go to the meetings, get involved in the events, volunteer to do what needs to be done.

As a general rule, the best way to beat a bout of the blues is to do something for someone else.  So think about that, too.  There are many ways to help and most of them will help you as much as whoever you’re assisting.  And you never know who you might meet while you’re doing it.

“My way or the highway…”

Another big mistake at this point in life is assuming that everyone you spend time with has to agree with your politics and your religious persuasion.  Good character and the party line are not the same thing.  This is another part of keeping your world expanding.  A good discussion with different points of view makes you think—and grow.  Respecting others’ right to their own views is a key piece of your own emotional development, too.

Being right is baloney.  There are so many shades of gray in what goes on in the world these days that insisting that whoever you talk to sees it exactly as you do is like assuming the entire world should be looking out the same 12” square window.  You’re building a bunker where a bridge belongs–a guaranteed way to feel lonely at the end of the day.

“I want my freedom…” 

One of the pluses of being alone after 50 is the bliss of doing everything the way you want, whether it’s popcorn for dinner, tai chi on the deck at sunrise, or never making the bed.  The hard truth about having other people in your life is you’ll have to let go of some of these “sovereign rights.”   If you want to do things with other people, you’re going have to agree to do it their way sometimes.  One-way streets are for cars not friendships.

Finding people to spend time with and to love is a multifaceted challenge.  It’s also something you have to choose to do and then work at getting good at.  Your mother may have been willing to listen to you go on and on about “you,” but the rest of the world needs more give and take than that.   Get good at both.

To beat “lonely and blue,” get on with what you like to do, connect with others who enjoy those same things, and then get to know them without deciding how they are going to be what you need.  A vibrant life at any age requires that you think beyond yourself and what you “don’t have.”