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Posts Tagged ‘smart choices’

Happy Shoes

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Do you have a pair of “happy shoes?” Maybe you need one.

I am blessed to have a son who is  one of the world’s happiest people.  If left to his own sense of how the world works, he always manages to see something good to focus on.  He clued me in to the idea of happy shoes.  He’s a tall guy and wears size 13′s.  When you see him in a pair of bright yellow vinyl sneakers with happy faces on them, you can bet something wonderful has happened in his life.  He recently wore them for his daughter’s birthday party.   But the real reason for the shoes was adversity that dogged him for five years.

He was the nice guy in the wrong place when the financial markets turned to goo.  He’s financially conservative but the company he’d been working for had gone in a bad direction and ended up imploding.  Prior to that event, he’d been able to find another job in a matter of days if not hours.  But with gazillions of financial professionals out of work, most of the jobs drying up, and the blot of “that company name” on his resume, the months turned into years.

His financial conservatism meant they’d been saving for this potential disaster.  Plus his wife still had a well-paying job.  The hit was ugly for the family wallet, but it pegged to downright grotesque in terms of its potential for destroying his self esteem.  He was a professional with good credentials.   In the aftermath of the finance sector’s meltdown, that probably worked against him even more–the “overqualified” issue.

But he didn’t sit on his hands while he waited for the right job to come along.  He  did all the things they advise doing.  (You will never find a guy more effective at networking.)  And when things didn’t turn around quickly, he didn’t head for the bar in frustration.  He just kept on believing it was going to work out while he did everything he could think of as the process dragged on and on.

He started studying for the CFA–an arduous credentialing process that some say is more demanding than an MBA.  He also remodeled their entire downstairs and  rebuilt a rock wall in the backyard.  He was in the middle of remodeling the kitchen when “the right job” finally materialized.

At some point in all that, he found these shoes–for when he would begin to celebrate the wins again.  He believed things were going to go right eventually. And they have.  When he passed the CFA’s (which really does take years), he sent a photo of his foot–in a happy shoe.  The image filled me with joy–and I wasn’t even the one who’d gone through the massive work effort to make the achievement happen.

I have a pair of silly shoes–pink suede, slide-on, sneaker style, 3″ platform shoes.  I got them for a costume party and they make me laugh.  (I am 5 foot 8.)  So I keep them.  But are they my happy shoes–or just my silly shoes?  What would it take to make them my happy shoes?

That’s beside the point.  The question here is how do you–and I–celebrate our wins?  And are our loved ones in on that?

Early in my writing career, I would treat my husband to dinner out when I finished a book  manuscript–simply because I wanted to celebrate that.  (Let’s not quibble about who’s “supposed” to buy in such circumstances.  Reality is often less romantic than we’d prefer.)

Going out to eat (at least if you don’t do it all the time) is a nice way to acknowledge completing a big job.  But you’re done  with the celebrating in an hour or two and the loved ones who are a thousand miles away don’t get to feel your joy.  Happy shoes send the message all day long and over the internet if you snap a photo.

I think I need some happy shoes.  I think you do, too.  Life is good–and when it’s even better for the moment because something good happened, it’s nice to mark that well.

Please note:   When I become adept at getting photos off my phone camera and into blog posts, I will include the images of these shoes as well as one of me wearing whatever my happy shoes are at that point–to celebrate the fact that I finally got that figured out.

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Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, please see her website.

It’s About Time

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

I’m in a bar fight with Time right now. I’m not even sure who started it. At the moment, I’m in a big transition—moving to new space in a new area to a house that’s needed significant TLC before I moved in.

So I’ve been painting, cleaning, and  organizing storage areas, plus trying to corral all the stuff I’ve managed to accumulate in the two years I’ve been living where I am now.  All that takes time.  And I want Time to cooperate and give me enough to get it all done–to give me the sense that I have it under control. Time is not hearing a word of that. I am not in control. Nope. Not at all.

Time is not flying; it is evaporating, like needed rain that never gets all the way to the parched desert floor. There “should” be enough time. This move is certainly doable. I have good support from family and friends. I have good resources to call for paid help as needed. But still, I am in this absurd wrestling match with Time.

On the surface, it looks like it’s my own silly fault. This cleaning that I’ve been doing….I’ve gone through three toothbrushes at it…plus a bunch of bamboo skewers…untold numbers of Q-tips…a few toothpicks. I’ve been manic about getting that last bit of gunk out of whatever it is that I’m sprucing up.

There is so much to get done.  And yet I’ve been piddling around with a toothpick trying to get the dirt out of the ridges of a light switch. I’ve painted almost every wall and most of the ceilings of the new place. I’ve replaced the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors. I’ve been absolutely anal about how I set up the kitchen.

Have I gone over the edge—to where cleanliness is no longer next to godliness but instead has moved into the marginally functional wing of a looney bin? How can I possibly get all the work done if I putz at little things? Why am I fighting with Time like this?

But as I admit this and look more closely, it’s starting to make sense. There is a lot to get done with this move. And I do like to start with things as clean as possible. (Dirt is okay but only if it’s mine.) But this move is one of a kind and involves more than getting my stuff from here to there. When I move, someone I love will remain behind—by choice, but still…. Much of what I take with me will have to be replaced if he wants to be able to cook, clean, eat off a plate, etc. (He’s a guy; he may not….) So this preoccupation with getting things clean was probably a good way to end up with the right pacing.

Is there anything in this insight that’s useful for life in general?

Yeah, I think so.  I’ve always been an exceptionally well-organized person.
I have not been like that on this move. Instead of making list after list, I’ve been blindly doing whatever seems to need to get done next. It turns out I have been letting my heart lead instead of my General-Manager-of-the-Universe mind.

Sometimes a list is not the answer. Sometimes, you just have to trust it’s going to work out and keep trudging along, even if what you’re working on seems to be getting a higher priority than it deserves. Sometimes, your hands have a better sense of what must be done than your mind does.

And that’s a good thing to realize at the start of a new year. “Because I’ve always done it this way” is a weak reason not to grow. By now I would be a raving lunatic if I’d have tried to manage this move the way I’ve done them in the past. I would also probably be heartsick and depressed. There are too many layers, too many extenuating circumstances, too much room to cause emotional hurt–to myself or someone else–by steamrollering through this move. What a blessing that I had the chance to piddle around with a toothbrush cleaning up someone else’s microscopic messes.

I haven’t been wrestling with Time after all. We were dancing, and I just didn’t know it.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 edition of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.

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Mary Lloyd is a consultant and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love, for those who want to build their own best retirement. Her first novel, Widow Boy will be out in 2014. For more, see her website.

What I Learned Buying a House After 60

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Life lessons don’t always come from expected sources. I’m buying a house. the lessons I’m learning go well beyond real estate.

For the last 18 months, I’ve lived with my boyfriend in a gated, 55+ community–in a new house he bought three years ago.  That’s been hard for me.  It’s not a lifestyle where I can thrive.  Our trial run at living together was an essential step.  We’ve learned living separately works better for us without having invested in real estate together.  That’s not exactly how “everybody does it.”  So there’s Lesson #1:   The next step for you is not always the one that works best for everyone else.

I sold my last house 18 months ago.  It was time.  I knew that for sure when I got an excellent price and had a done deal in less than a month.  I thought I needed to sell that house because it had a lot of yard—with elevation.  That wasn’t the real reason, but it got me to take action.   Lesson #2:  The reason you act isn’t always the reason you needed to act.

About three months ago, I knew it was time to get back in the game.  But did I need a house?  How about renting instead?  How about a condo?  I moved through this phase fairly quickly once I admitted something everyone in the family already knew.  I am a compulsive gardener.  I need dirt   Rented dirt doesn’t work.  Lesson #3:  Be honest with yourself.

I listed what I wanted in this new house—and promptly sabotaged myself big time.  I rejected my own preferences, telling myself I needed to heed the “prevailing wisdom” about what older people need as housing instead.  I wanted stairs—but what if I needed single-story living later in my life?  I wanted a garden, but what happened if I couldn’t handle the physical demands of that eventually?  This ageist crap clobbered me hard.  I was looking for a house I could “grow old in” and conjuring up all sorts of limiting scenarios.

A conversation with my older son saved me.  When I told him I planned to live in this house for the rest of my life, he laughed—and then told me that wasn’t likely.  I challenged him, thinking he was assuming I would not be able to live on my own for that long.  His reply?  “Mom, you’re a gypsy.  You aren’t going to stay in any house that long.”  Okay, Lesson #4:  Admit who you are.  Let’s throw in Lesson #5, too:  Beware of insidious ageist thinking!

So I learned I needed to buy the house for now.  Then the challenge became where.

I’d told the realtor I wanted to see things in areas I was familiar with, where friends lived and I already knew my way around.  We looked at 43 houses.  None of them came remotely close to fitting the bill.  All were older than I wanted, needed significant updating, and/or had chopped up floor plans that didn’t work for me.  I was thoroughly disheartened.  Time for Lesson #6:  When it’s not working, you need to change something.

I decided it had to be where I was looking that was wrong.  And it was wrong because I was thinking rationally instead of feeling authentically.  When I finally admitted what I really needed and wanted at an emotional level, I realized I needed a new location to explore—but one that was closer to family.  Lesson #7:  Important decisions should start with your heart and be handled rationally after the emotional aspects are clear.

Once I realized I needed to be somewhere new, an amazing thing happened.  I discovered an area that I’d been assuming was “too far away from everything” was actually closer to my family than the places I’d been looking. The homes were of the age I like.  The neighborhoods were a delight for walking.  Right on cue, a house I loved came on the market.  The right size yard.  The right amount of floor space.  The kind of floor plan I love.  So that’s Lesson #8:  Keep going.

I’m still jumping the real estate hoops on the deal—offer, acceptance, inspection, etc.–but I feel really good about this house.  It’s helped me learn so much already.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.
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Mary Lloyd is a consultant and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love (which she wrote for those who want a better life than the current retirement stereotypes define).  Her first novel, Widow Boy will be out in 2014.  For more, see her website.

Forward and Back

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

A good dance involves both forward and back. The Dance of Life is the same.  Some of us get hung up on moving forward.  Some of us get stuck in looking back.  But the best comes when you have a bit of both in how you live your days.

Forward is held in high regard–has been for a long time now.  “Youth and progress” started trumping “the way we’ve always done it” when the Industrial Age took over from farming a couple centuries ago.  Moving forward is important.  Babies learn.  Companies grow and become more effective.  Moving up is part of most career plans.  Progress is a good thing.

But progress without an appreciation for where we’ve already been is a little like trying to do the waltz without ever moving back to the first spot on the floor–more like stomping than an elegant dance.

Forging ever onward at all costs feels too much like a forced march.  There has to be some looking back.  Time to reflect on the mountain you’ve been climbing or the beauty of the sun as it sets behind you.

There’s a difference between looking back and getting stuck in the past though.  It’s tempting with all the forms of awfulness that have manifest lately to yearn for the good old days.  Life was simpler in 1963.  At least for me–I was still in high school and hadn’t experienced the down side of growing up yet.  No lay offs.  No divorces.  No difficult step children.  No boss from hell.  No idiotic Congressional logjams.  Some days it just seems like that life was a better life.  But it really wasn’t.

Still, once we retire the “good ol’ days” can sing a siren’s song.  You start thinking “What would happen if I went back?” to a place that held good times before.  You can go back and live in the  town where you were raised (well, unless it’s been turned into a giant manufacturing facility or is at the bottom of some reservoir).  But you can’t go back and live that life anew.  It will not be the same life, even if you can get all your high school pals to move back with you and you do the very same things that were so cool then.  You are different because of what’s gone on in your life since then.  They are different.  And the town is different, even if it doesn’t look like it. (My hometown sure doesn’t.)

A wiser move is to attempt to re-create what you liked about that time past.  The sense of camaraderie?  The bliss of living near a lake?  What was it about that experience that made it good?  Finding a way to get that in the life you are living now is moving sort of like forward and back at the same time.

Too often, we get stuck in either/or.  But life is a dance and we need both when it comes to forward and back.  One two three.  One two three.  Float on the delight of what’s happening now.  On where you’re going next.  But with a sense of who you are that comes only from looking back at all you’ve come through.

Sometimes it’s salsa.  Sometimes a waltz.  Sometimes you’re dancing your socks off to Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”  But it’s always a matter of forward and back.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, see her website.

 

Take the Stairs

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

I’ve been whining about missing my stairs ever since I moved from a two-story house to a rambler 18 months ago.  Those stairs really were a plus in my life–I got exercise without having to schedule it all day every day. But a week ago, in an editorial in Talent Management magazine, Mike Prokopeak upped the ante.  He suggested “taking the stairs” in the business setting as well.

He was making the same point I’ve been–the more we incorporate physical exertion in subtle ways to do the things we have to do anyway, the easier it is to maintain some semblance of fitness even when things get overbusy.

He pointed out that some business meetings are now conducted standing up (which accomplishes two things–it involves more physical effort, but it also makes the meetings shorter.)  Some managers conduct important one on one conversations by taking a walk with that person.  That also has some extra pluses.  Difficult subjects are easier to address while walking.   Creative ideas also seem to come more easily when you’re moving on foot.

But after I thought about his suggestions for a while, I realized this is not just about being less sedentary in business settings.  It’s not even about real stairs.  It’s about taking the more demanding route on anything and everything just for the extra benefits that those approaches often bring.

Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi advocate something similar to this interpretation of “take the stairs” in Super Brain.  If you want to keep your mind operating at optimum capacity for the long haul, you can’t just do the same old stuff the same old way and hope for the best.  Look for a new restaurant instead of going back to the same old favorite every time you eat out.  Learn a new sport instead of relying exclusively on the one you already enjoy.  Make a point of meeting new people and going new places.

To live well as we age, we need a steady diet of new stimuli.  According to Chopra and Franzi, that keeps our brains creating new synapses and the more synapses you have, the better you can weather a situation where some of them are injured or die.

To create those synapses, we need to “take the stairs” as many different ways as we can.

Every time we decide instead to run on autopilot, we lose the chance to build more brain strength.  We lose the chance to build an even stronger social network.  We lose the chance to find new ways to love deeply and be involved in new things that are meaningful.  Those are the real elements of a rich life.  Why forego them just to avoid exerting yourself a bit?

Once we retire, even if it’s to–or in–a single story home, we need to remain committed to “taking the stairs.”  Do something that takes more effort than “same old same old.”  It will make a huge difference as time marches on.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love For more, see her website.

Wait? Or Act?

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

While we are actively working at “a career”, there is rarely a question about whether we need to make something happen or whether we’re better off waiting for it to happen.

If it’s your job and it’s supposed to happen by a certain time, you’re on it.  If it’s a goal you set for the business, even if it’s your business and you’re the only employee, you get it done.  At home in support of the person earning the paycheck, you still get it done because money you need to live is on the line. But once you leave that world behind, knowing when to act and when to wait is far less cut and dried.

To some extent, this notion that we’re all supposed to sit around doing nothing in retirement is to blame.  There’s no expectation that we’re supposed to get anything done.  To the world, it’s no big deal if you do that thing or not.  It’s almost heresy to think you should be “getting something done.”

If that lifestyle is working for you, great.  But if you’re frustrated that you don’t do the things you say you want to do—or worried you won’t once you retire, look a little deeper for what may be getting in the way.

  •  Are you convinced you need (or want) to do it?  Well, maybe you are today, but then tomorrow it doesn’t look quite as important.  Unless there’s a strong sense of purpose at your core, whether or not you want to put effort into any given action will change day to day.  Find your purpose.
  •  Do you believe you can do it? If it’s something new, your confidence about whether or not you can pull it off will also waiver.  Right now, I am shying away from setting up a new piece to my blog.  It’s very doable, and I need to get it done.  But I’ve found an unbelievable array of ways to avoid it—day after day after day.  My inner wimp is afraid of that work because I’m going to have to be a beginner to do it.  When it’s new, you’re going to feel like a beginner.  It’s wise to make peace with being a beginner again.
  • Are you afraid of something about doing it?  Most of us don’t face physical dangers every day like our ancestors did.  But our brains are still wired for that.  Current day fears are more often based either on things that have already happened or things that might happen.  The part of our brains that triggers fear doesn’t differentiate.  So we are ginning up a lot of fear of non-events.

Now is the only time we have for taking action.  Decide based on what’s real now and get on with it.

There’s another piece to this that’s equally frustrating once we retire though.  After so many years where we had to make things happen, it’s harder to see when it would be wiser to wait.

Sometimes, waiting for things to fall into place is a much better solution.  At the moment, I need to find a house.  I’ve been at it for two months; it feels more like ten because I haven’t found anything close to what I want.  Sure, some people really do knock on the front door and ask the owners if they want to sell the house.

But that’s not what’s called for here.  At least if I am wise.  Every time I go out with my realtor (who is a saint), I learn more about what I like, see features—or issues–that I hadn’t considered, and discover solutions to problems my eventual house might have.  I’m still getting educated on this.  Making the decision before I know all I need to know is not in my best interest. But that doesn’t stop my ego from throwing a tantrum every once in a while.

How do you know when to not take action?

If you want to take action because it gives you a feeling of control when the situation isn’t yours to control, your action might be a bad idea.  Acting as General Manager of the Universe usually just makes things worse.  Are you desperate for control?  Simmer down and see what else you need to discover about what you’re trying to do.

The time to act is when you’re avoiding what you know you want to do because you’re afraid.  The time to wait is when you want to take action in a situation you can’t control.  It’s a good operating principle.

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.

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Mary Lloyd is a consultant and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love (which she wrote for those who want a better life than the current retirement stereotypes suggest).  Her first novel, Widow Boy will be out in 2014.  For more, see her website.

Yes, It IS Your Fault

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Okay. At some point, we voted for these bozos.  They are in office.  The fact that they are not doing the job they agreed to do  is something we’ll have to deal with– and hopefully we will–in upcoming elections.  What’s going on right now in our government is mind-numbingly egotistical.  To say that the behavior of these “statesmen” is dismaying is like saying Mount Everest is tall.  So let’s start to make this clearer to them:

TO THOSE WHO HAVE HAD A HAND IN SHUTTING DOWN THE US GOVERNMENT:

You have embarrassed us all with your ineptitude and hard-headedness.  You have put millions of hard working citizens out of work to prove a point even you can’t agree on.  If you were adult enough to go to real core values in negotiating, this would have been resolved long before the deadline.  You choose instead to play Ego games and call them “values.”

TO THE REPUBLICANS:  Yes, you are to blame.  Shame on you for insisting there is only one way to achieve what you are trying to achieve–which is less government spending in the long haul.  It doesn’t have to be wearing the Obamacare logo to achieve that end.

TO THE DEMOCRATS:  Yes, you are to blame.  Insisting that additional delay not happen on a program that has already been delayed in part–and for lesser reasons than not shutting down the government– is not valiant.  It is Ego-driven just like the quest to make it go away.  You are no different than your counterparts across the isle in your pettiness.

NO ONE IN CONGRESS HAS STEPPED UP AND WITH A SANE VOICE MANAGED TO GET ANY TRACTION WHATSOEVER ON WHAT THE REST OF US MUST DO EVERY DAY.  Getting the right things to happen while working with people we don’t agree with is simply part of living life in this complex world.  Why the hell does Congress think it should get a hall pass?

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

Mr. Obama, you have been President of the United States for five years.  You have had the role as leader of the leading country in the world for half a decade, yet you do not seem to grasp that A LEADER NEEDS TO LEAD.  YOU are the leader of this country.  Not Mr. Boehner.  Not Mr. Reid.  Not any of the news celebrities.  YOU.  That means part of your job is figuring out how to get people to follow.  Many of us long ago learned what you still don’t know.  You do not get people to follow by drawing lines in the sand.

All of you, please stop this embarrassing display of ineptitude.  Any sane adult knows that reaching a compromise involves giving up lesser things to achieve the most important thing.  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING RIGHT NOW IS TO GET THE US OFF THE WORLD STAGE IN THIS CLOWN SUIT.  We need to get our affairs in order as a government.  You have disgraced us in front of the entire world and put a lot of people in financial peril for the sake of being “right.” There is no “right” in this behavior, just the din of self-centered grandstanding.

Solutions reached through compromise stand the test of changing political winds.  Programs put in place via the political clout of just one party are doomed to be rescinded when that party falls out of favor.  The American system works BECAUSE of compromise.  Please learn that civics lesson and get back to doing your job.

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By Mary Lloyd, writer, consultant, speaker, and citizen–really disgruntled citizen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Something?

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

One of the biggest challenges of retirement is knowing what you really have to do.  Well…the death and taxes stuff is still in place, but there’s so much you can blow off after you decided to do it once your past the career stage.

Even if you’re accustomed to setting goals once a year–or once a month or once a week–and have been really good at making them happen, you are vulnerable on this.  Once you retire, the number of people who care if you get things done is dramatically reduced.  And that means the probability of you getting the things done that you said you were going to do goes down.

The goal setting process we used in business doesn’t work as well here.  The only accountability is to ourselves, so the need to get on with whatever we said we were going to do it a lot less pronounced.  In addition, any thing that looks like “work” becomes suspect.  We’re supposed to be playing, right?

I’m not sure I know what to do about this problem  in total.  I do have  some clues that have come into focus lately.

1.  If you want to feel like you are “doing something” once you retire, the most important thing to do is define your sense of purpose before you load up your calendar.  Othewise, you end up doing a lot and not feeling like you’ve gotten anything done.  If you don’t know your purpose, experiment for a year or two or even more.  That then becomes your goal–to find your sense of purpose.

2.  The second most important thing to do is to find something you can do every day to honor that purpose.  It doesn’t haven’t to be an eight-hour daily commitment.  Maybe for now, all you need to do is spend ten minutes in the morning visualizing yourself successfully doing the thing you want to do.  But it does have to be daily.  Otherwise, you lose track of what you said you wanted to do very quickly and drift along in the backwater of what everyone else suggests you do–feeling slightly restless and more-than-slightly bored.

3.  It also helps to find an “assistant.”  This isn’t about having someone else do the computer work.  The assistant you need is someone to whom you tell your goal and who then bugs you when you aren’t getting on with it.  At the moment, I am the official poke-in-the-ribs for a friend who wants to get an important document up on her website before she goes on vacation next month.   Last summer, she was my “catcher.”  We agreed I would send her a chapter a week of a book draft I wanted to get done.  She agreed to accept it–and that made a huge difference in how I honored my commitment to finish a chapter a week.

4.  The last piece of this part of the puzzle is to believe in yourself–particularly in the early stages of retirement.  It’s very easy to talk yourself out of what your heart really wants to do.  It is far too simple to just “not do it” because friends dropped by for a surprise visit or your daughter needed help cleaning out a gutter that was flooding her family room.  If you really want to set yourself up to “do something” at this stage of the game, you need to believe that it’s important.  Not just some of the time.  All of the time.

Martha Beck calls the senseless fears that stop us for doing the things we truly want to the Inner Lizard.  These fears are a misfire of what is, for the most part, a survival mechanism from the very first years humans roamed the earth.  Then, we needed to be ready to handle physical dangers on short notice.  Now, that same mechanism manufactures things to be afraid of because the real thing–saber-toothed tigers and such–are no longer part of our experience.  That old brain needs something to be afraid of in order to come up with a strategy for surviving it.  And being afraid is another thing that will keep you from not doing that something you really want to do.

Our higher brains–and our hearts–are more accurate beacons for retirement effort.  Most of us are reasonably safe by the time we reach retirement.  The things we worry about quite often don’t even happen.  So instead of that old brain, we need to find a new driver for what we are going to do.

We could do something logical, relying on the frontal cortex instead of the “reptilian brain” at the top of our spines.  But even better is to start from your heart.  Yes, do something.  But choose stuff that makes you smile.  That makes you swell with pride about getting involved in making a difference on something important.  That makes your smarter and more informed today than you were yesterday about something you really need to know.  That makes you feel like you are doing something

Yes.  Do something.  Do set goals.  But make them golden instead of the ordinary stainless steel ones that were good enough while we were on the job.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love For more, see her website.

Leave Enough Room for the Kid

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

You think I’m going to talk about your offspring, right? Nope. The kid I want you to make room for is your own kid–the one you used to be before responsibility and adulthood and career and parenting and … made you lose track of him or her.

Once we are well enough off to give up work, we need to find that kid. To start having regular play dates. To relearn how to have fun without worrying about all the adult things for a few hours.  Being a kid again isn’t just about not being responsible. Being a kid involves creativity, spontaneity, friendship, and yes a bit of mischief.

No, I am not advocating the Off Their Rockers kind of dumb stunts. But it is a good idea to go back to having uninhibited fun at least occasionally. Fun that you forgot you knew how to have. Sometimes that involves silliness. Sometimes it involves reconnecting with the people you used to do those kinds of things with. Sometimes it’s just a matter of remembering that you loved doing it as you do it with your grandkids.

But you have to leave room for it. Room in your schedule. Room in your physical dwelling. Room in your heart. Please leave room for your kid.

At the moment, I am shopping for my next house. Yes, it does need to be a house. I am a dirt person. My little kid needs a patch of ground where she can plant flowers and vegetables and see what grows this year and try all over again next year.

And it will be a little bit bigger than some might think I need at this stage of the game. Why? Because I also need a messy room. I need someplace where I can start a creative project and leave the mess out so that I can work on it again without all the rigmarole of getting it all back out from where I stored it.

We do not revel in messes as adults but kids have to have them. (We really need them, too, but we’ve been brainwashed.) This new house is going to be different. In the past, the important thing was to get wherever I lived to look like a home decorating magazine article. That’s nice. When you use the things that mean something to you (and that have “stories”), that effort really is an essential part of feathering a nest.  But it’s not the whole story.

We also need blank spaces–fresh canvas for the things we have yet to create in our lives. The kid in us does not relax with a finely finished room. She needs a place to express herself.  That requires empty spaces and blank pages in the calendar.

If you’ve been living in your space for a long time, this is still true. To make space for the Kid there, you need to do occasional purges (or “sort and pitches” as I call them). Is what’s taking up your space useful? Is it beautiful? Joyful? If it’s none of these things, maybe you need to let it go so you have room for the Kid. So much of what we end up with is either given to us and doesn’t serve us or is obsolete but still in place. Get rid of everything in those categories so there’s room to grow.

Same deal with your calendar. Are you doing things that are fun? That you feel good about contributing your time to? If you stop doing things that no longer satisfy you, there’s a lot more room to find new things to do. Things your Kid will enjoy.

It’s easy to get into serious volunteering when you retire. Watch out for that. The Kid is a good giver and an enthusiastic helper, provided you are doing something that’s really you. Adults can fake enthusiasm. Kids cannot.

Retirement is the chance to hit the reset button–to come up with a calendar and a home that match the real you. When you start working on that, be sure you remember the Kid. You will enjoy the rest of your life a lot more if you leave that child plenty of room to play.
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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.

Obesity + Retirement: Yikes!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Obesity and retirement do go together well. If you want a recipe for disaster, mix those two things and add a lot of time on your hands.  Talk about awful.  But we aren’t talking about it at all.  Instead we just keep supersizing that soda and looking for that nice rambler in the retirement community.

Today, researchers released a study that found about 18% of us–that’s one in five or so–are going to die from obesity related causes.  That is an absolutely stunning number for any age group.  I suspect it’s even higher for those of us over 60 for a variety or reasons, but even that one-in-five thought is mind-numbing.  A fifth of our nation will die because we got too fat.

We can point to a whole range of reasons for this.  And there are probably a whole lot more that we don’t even realize are part of the picture at this point.  I’m not going to run down the list.  I am going to look at one thing, and that only in the context of being retired.  The issue is how much you are active.

Yes….YOU.  Please do no try to excuse yourself because you have…diabetes…heart disease…cataracts…bad knees…..irritable bowel syndrome….grass allergies…fallen arches….gout…arthritis…or whatever.  No matter what you have going wrong with your body, you can still move something.  So figure out how to move that often and vigorously.

At the moment I am house hunting.  My sweetheart, who will be living with me, has made the following requirements:  single story, no stairs, small yard.  Nothing like buying into your own casket twenty years before you need it.

This is the same guy who can’t understand why he doesn’t do better when we go out to hike and we’re dealing with 1000 feet of elevation. Kudos to him for wanting to hike–and actually going out to do it.  But how about setting yourself up a little better in terms of how you “train” every day by including some stairs in your daily routine?

My dad died a few days short of his 85th birthday.  He’d had problems with his heart from age 40 on.  He didn’t die of heart disease.  And he went upstairs to take his shower every night until his death even though we could have put a shower in on the first floor.  The trip to the second floor was fine with him.  He was a smart guy.

My mom died way too young.  She was 64 when cancer claimed her.  But she still had the slim figure of a teenager when she passed.  Why?  She refused to give up the exercise of hanging clothes on the line to dry.  And no, she was not a farm wife.  Mom worked her way through college to earn a degree in Intellectual History.

Last Sunday, I took myself on a morning walk in the neighborhood and stopped to talk with a guy creating a border garden in his front yard.  He was not hiring it done.  He was taking pick in hand and tearing out the turf a little at a time.  Let me assure you this is brute work.  But he was happy with the task and excited about what they were creating.  We talked about how neither of us were very good at sitting still.  Then he said he thought staying active made you look younger.  That was certainly true for him–I guessed his age as about 15 years younger than he was.  When you are active, your skin looks healthier.  Your muscles are more toned.  You look better regardless of your age.

Think about it.  When someone gets sick and has to lay around for an extended period just to get better, they look disproportionately older when you see them again after the ordeal.  When you are stuck in a sedentary role (caregiving comes to mind) you start to age before your very eyes.  Sitting around is not good for your looks or your energy level.

We need to get rid of this stupid idea that the ideal retirement is the one where you do all kinds sedentary stuff–fun vacations involving copious amounts of sitting and eating, watching TV at home, playing bingo at the casino….

We are not getting fat because we are getting older.  We are getting fat because we are not using up the calories we consume.  It’s the same equation it’s always been.  But even worse, we’re missing the fun and satisfaction of the active realm to watch garbage on television.  We can do better for ourselves.

Buy a house with some stairs.  Try gardening.  Become a volunteer coach for your local kids soccer program.  Get out and dance.  Go to an exercise class for the wheelchair bound.  Join a ski club–or a bird-watching group.  Go DO something.  Something that makes you move as much as you can.

You will be amazed at what it does for your attitude along with your girth.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love For more, see her website.