I know a lot of women caught up in Magical thinking, partly do to living through the sixties and the New Age wave. They got inspired by people and books and movements and retreats that brought inspiration, but in the end did not do that much to change their lives permanently. In some cases I think it can keep people from taking real action. Astrology, vision boards, positive thinking, and such books as “The Secret” promise a kind of magical change in one's life that really would require more practical steps and hard work of the kind many don't want to do, like research and learning difficult things.
Nothing wrong with being happy and positive. But not if it keeps you from using time to take steps to get to your dream. The one thing that I think was good about “The Secret” was the idea of the law of attractions. Although in the book it was kind of like being a magnet for money to come your way, I think people that are positively taking steps towards a dream, making progress that keeps them going, and enjoying the ride, tend to attract others who will help them, be inspired by them and in turn inspire the one who inspires them! I remember my friend Jean in the eighties taking steps to go back to school to become a medical technician and how I watched carefully to see her get to her goal, then deciding I was not to old to go back to graduate school. Later I introduced her to my school program for older students, and she did the same program!
I am suspicious of all books, seminars and the like that charge a lot of money. The best things in life are free, or close to it, and even though people think they are getting what they pay for, I think in this day there is so much on the internet that is free, that you can build a do it yourself program for change and success. And if you have to pay for something like a class you will at least get the best price. Those who have something valuable to offer and love giving it will only charge what they have to to make a living, not a killing.
So maybe there is a trend about to happen? Given that the baby boomer generation is a large group, and may still be financially viable to the business world, maybe old will be the new hip. So says this article in the Atlantic.
Well, I’m jumping on board. This coming spring I will produce a fashion show for the older crowd, with local boutiques competing for the best, coolest and most stylish outfit on the 60 plus models. We will have a hat contest in which children show hats they made for their grandmas. It should all be a lot of fun. A video will run on youtube, and part of the display will be my ten paintings of flowers, just past their full bloom, but still lovely.
Like that scene with Kathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, in which she gets back at the young girls who steal her parking place, the upcoming seniors will defy the notion that you have to be young to be gorgeous.
My son pointed out a theory to me that when people are under stress, they fall into defending one of three self images: that either they are Competent, Loved, or Important. Of course we want all three, but often we feel most confidence in one of the three, so try to put our best foot forward when feeling attacked. The problem comes in when the other person, also under stress perhaps, is defending a different side of themselves and what ensues is a no win conversation, where one person is trying to get acknowledgement for how competent they are and the other is defending their own lovability. Zero communication. But if you figure out what the other person is trying to defend it makes better sense, and you can either reassure the person they are competent, lovable, or important, and then move on to solve the issue at hand.
Older people suffer from fear of, or actual experience of, feeling incompetent, not important any more, or unloved. We might fall into defensive modes when threatened with these experiences, which probably postpones finding solutions to the dilemma.
Creativity to the rescue! Finding a situation or person for whom you can take an important role, and exhibit competency is a real possibility. Several of my friends have taken on an ESL student whom they see once a week for an hour. Even love can develop between mentor and student when a freely given gift of speaking one’s own language makes another person thrive.
There are always going to be others that will need what we have to offer. All it takes is a little creative thinking, and a search on the internet until you find your target. My aunt Carolyn used to drive around the “old” people to their doctor’s appointments. She was in her eighties but felt young, useful and important taking around the ninety somethings.
Healing power of MUSIC
Some people say old age is a process of loss. Our bodily functions go one by one and you are never quite sure which part of your body is going to fail next, whether permanently or just a sudden malfunction of your knee that make you almost trip.
I was gazing at the full moon the other night thinking rather morosely that I probably only have about 180 full moons left in my life. Then the words of Cat Steven’s old song, Moonshadow came to mind:
Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if... I won't have to work no more.
And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if... I won't have to cry no more.
Yes I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin' and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow
And if I ever lose my legs, I won't moan, and I won't beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if... I won't have to walk no more.
And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if... I won't have to talk...
I have a real chance of loosing my eyesight first. But thanks to my sister, Soni, when I first faced the possibility she pointed out all the benefits of being blind: lots of free stuff, she showed me online. I almost wanted to be blind to get all the freebies! In any case, I find it helps to imagine losses and what would I do if they happened. Thinking of all the positive things.
Small, tanned and wirey, she’s a Yankee woman of few words. Every week at the farmers’ market she shows up in her tricked out white van, filled with magnetic knife holders and sharping equipment. This is her retirement job, one she created herself after doing accounting for movie production companies most of her life. ‘
“Family business?” I asked while she sharpened my Wolfgang “sort of good” carving knife.
“Nope. Started it myself”.
“I needed something that would fit into my life. I have lots of animals and can’t be gone all day. Want to work for myself and have flex time. So I taught myself.”
“Mostly. The people. And keeps my biceps strong.”
“Can’t get by on Social Security can we?”
What impressed me that she knew nothing about it until she tried to figure out something that would suit the life she wanted to live. That, and how she combined keeping in shape with a job.
Cash business, too, has it’s up side.
Every time I use the knife this winter I will think of her. Hope to see her again next summer.
FOCUS on the goal
Selective, Optimize, Compensate. I have used these words over and over again when I get trapped in a negative or confusing time or feel discouraged about a direction I am trying to pursue.
One of the best ways I found to get ready for this journey was a purging of physical possessions. I was helped by the highly popular book “ The Life Changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. http://tidyingup.com/ By paring down my possessions to a precious few, I mentally was preparing to eliminate parts of my life that were not essential to joy.
So this blog is about my going from where I am, which is at the end of a teaching career, to where I want to go which is physically in California with my family, but with an exciting and doable lifestyle. For me that means having some income and preserving my resources carefully without depriving myself of the things I really need to be happy.
I think of the process in the metaphor of the advice I give myself and others when completing a painting. Step back and give the painting some space then process to put on the finishing touches that are the sin qua non, piece de resistance: the icing on the cake that makes it all work as a whole. The last part of life can be the most delightful time if managed well. Sharing ideas with others can be a way to do that, I think.
I am working towards a project in the spring that is helping me get focus on my skeleton of an idea I am pursuing: An event for older women involving celebrating their beauty through art and fashion. This will also be a way for me to try out my idea for a ReFirement career I might pursue in California: knowing full well the idea may take many forms before becoming a reality.
Will you like to hear my story as I go along? And would you want to add your own thoughts to the mix of how to do this thing with panache and success?
Where to start once you realize the fourth stage of life is coming, ready or not? The fourth stage is when we move from our established careers and family orientation to a new stage based on different circumstances and resources. Our kids are on their own, and some younger person seems to be nipping at our heels at work.
Unlike the generations before us that we watched, grandchildren might not be near or plentiful, creating a happy occupation. Or maybe a grandchild got dropped off and you are raising him, or an adult child has set up camp in your basement, without much of a plan. Still, we are probably facing changes in career options and physical alterations.
Women are especially prone to thinking negatively about aging, and panic the first few times they lose their car keys, or have a knee injury that dates weeks to heal. Women tend to underestimate their assets and exaggerate their limitations.
Two things are needed to form a good plan: A reality check and a re-framing of our resources. Allowing time and energy for this is crucial to having a satisfying last two decades of our active lives.
My sister Soni is a good example of how to do this, since she has studied the issue and is now implementing her personal plan. She has offered many ideas on how to navigate the unknown ahead, one of which got me started on how to formulate my own ReFirement years.
If you are this old you remember the old show “Laugh In” in which Goldie Hawn always said “Sock it to me”, whatever that meant. But if you remember the initials SOC with an image of Goldie, in your mind you can go back to this simple concept every time you run into trouble planning your future.
The initials stand for Selective, Optimize, and Compensate. Here a a few ways those ideas can help keep things on track.
SELECTIVE. We have to be careful in choosing our focus since time, and energy, are in shorter supply. Choosing the right activities is so important. Choosing a few things that bring JOY and eliminating other concerns helps with the next letter, O.
OPTIMIZE. Once chosen, we should do whatever we can to be really good at the chosen activity. Get training, practice skills, and fine tune the exact area of activity you want to pursue. NOT based on what you think you will be able to find work in, but purely on passion.
COMPENSATE is about getting all the help you need in your weaker areas, such as marketing, keeping up with mundane responsibilities, and things you hate to do. Save all your energy for the important main focus. More on this next post.