Intention

Packing

I have been wanting to write about intention. By this I mean a life by design, not accident; a life in which you actively choose where to put your attention, your money, your time.  Annie Dillard notes:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.”

For me, working meant built-in purpose, a schedule, a routine. My days were interesting and full and fun. I rarely had to choose – I could spend indiscriminately, I could multi-task, and I believed I was doing it all. I was the embodiment of “more.”

Annie Dillard also wrote:

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life.”

It is that life of the spirit I grapple with now that I do not have a built in schedule. Without work to distract me, I can see clearly the culture’s drive to commoditize the human spirit. I stand apart and observe how we deftly we are pulled into the life of sensation – though our increasingly intelligent devices, targeted advertising, food and medical options presented through traditional venues.  “More” and “faster” are the dictates of this drive.

I also observe more people now who are choosing to live an intentional life. They are opting to live less expensively, to do without or to live in a rural environment, so that they can be free from work earlier in their lives. I’m not sure if these folks have always been there and I didn’t know them, or if this is becoming a movement. In any event, as I get further from the noise and drama of working life, I see more options than ever before. Options for good days and a good life.

 

A Diagnosis is Just a Label for Your Symptoms

April

I really enjoy watching the You Tube contributions of Dr. Sarah King, PT, DPT, who is a Parkinson’s physical therapist (and owner of Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness). She wrote a letter called Things I Wish I Could Have Told You the Day You Were Diagnosed with Parkinson’s – the letter is here; the video here. I recommend it for everyone – it could have been written for anyone recently diagnosed with “aging.”

To believe we are not broken, that a future is still ours to create, and that we can get where we want to go with small changes applied with urgency is important for everyone.

 

Retirement for Real

Here are nine things that I see differently from this perch called retirement, now I have been here a while:

  1. Building a New Life. Think about retirement as the chance to build a new life from scratch, and this goes doubly if you are moving to a new part of the country. This is an opportunity to be yourself fully, so think about not just the stuff you want to start doing, but also what you want to stop doing. You will still have constraints, of course, but how you maneuver around them is part of who you are.
  2. Giving. What you give to others in retirement is a mindset and attitude as much as knowledge and time. Help others be better.
  3. Money. Unless you have really saved “enough” money, you are going to need a budget. Get that spreadsheet ready. Also, there is nothing like a 30 minutes, once per week, discussing with your spouse what you spent and why.
  4. Organizing. Retirement requires just as much, if not more, administration and project management time as your working life required.
  5. Living Space. If you move to a new area because you believe it to be cheaper, give it a year or so before that cheap kicks in. There is always a period of settling into a new home and new community that requires resources.
  6. Time. Take responsibility for yourself and the time you have. Don’t drive your spouse crazy.
  7. Parents. Your parents and your spouse’s parents are going to need attention. You basically have four parents now (more if you have a multiple marriage situation), and you are going to have to help attend to all of them at one point or another.
  8. Health. Your health belongs to you – not your doctor, your spouse, your friends, or your trainer.  If you aren’t in the habit of moving around most of the time, of eating mindfully, recognizing when you are stressed, then your health is already declining.
  9. The Future. You cannot know what is to come. Don’t believe every thought that pops into your mind.

60 Isn’t What It Used To Be

From an article on the glamorous grandmas of Instagram in NYTimes this week:

“Our collective understanding of what later life looks like remains woefully outdated,” Marie Stafford, the European director of the JWT Innovation Group, wrote in her introduction. “Age no longer dictates the way we live. Physical capacity, financial circumstances and mind-set arguably have far greater influence.” (Emphasis mine)

Retirement Mindset

Storm over Lake Michigan

My mindset around the idea of retirement has evolved over the past two years. I share this thought with you because it took me some time to learn it, and these words might provide a shortcut to you.

Retirement is a blank canvas on which we build our new life, and our legacy. It’s a fresh chance to lean into the habits, interests, and activities that are most true to ourselves, listening to the ideas and hopes that give us juice, within the circumstances that naturally constrain us.

I have alot of experience with life at this age. I have some sense of how I like to spend my time. The last few years of my working life felt like a pinnacle; it may have just been the culmination of a career trying on likes and dislikes and finally knowing what I like best. Now I am retired, I have time to build my best self from scratch. This is the person whom others meet today – not the decisive executive (also bossy), or organized administrator (also rigid), or thoughtful team leader (also sometimes thoughtless) that I was in my career days.

If I do it right, my best attributes – built over years in those roles – shine through and mix with what I’m learning now into an authentic and true self. This is what I bring to this thing we call retirement.

Unretirement

This article at NYTimes.com about people retiring, then realizing how bored they are, really resonates with me. There are only so many things that need to be organized, so many friends you need to catch up with, after you retire. Purpose is paramount!

Time to Read – Q1 Books

One thing about retirement: I finally have enough time to read as much as I wish. In the first quarter of 2018 I read 15 books. Given how much time I actually have, this number begs the question, why so few? Anyway, I’d highly recommend the first six on this list:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I loved this novel and read it in one big gulp. It is about a single historical incident, but structurally it paints a whole sweep of history. The concept is a bit Thornton Wilder, but the execution, well, the execution is marvelous.  The “Bardo” is a Buddhist liminal state between death and rebirth; Saunders imagines a whole world there with multiple voices. This books reads like a work of poetry (or like the play Saunders said he started to write), it is funny and sad and beautiful all in one.
A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City by Drew Philp
An amazing first non-fiction work. The story is structured around Drew’s complete rebuild of an auctioned house, while articulating how to rebuild a community. He gets, and articulates well, the big issues that have been facing Detroit for years. Very excited to see him speak in Traverse City in April.
The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A contemporary novel about Vietnam, and the experience of Vietnamese immigrants, told by a narrator who is amazingly honest – also funny, crass, scary, and meditative. Fantastic and beautiful use of the English language.
City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff
A good, fast, interesting historical novel set in St. Petersburg during WWII. Reminded me a little of All the Light We Cannot See.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J D Vance
A straight up memoir, of a young man’s escape from the path his parents took. I liked it very much. J D Vance’s Mamaw is a character that will be with me for a long time. This is an important story about what the American dream has become in the 21st century.
First Snow, Last Light by Wayne Johnston
I really enjoyed this mysterious novel, set in Newfoundland.  The writing style was a bit different than any I have read before, and the story was compelling.  I liked the characters and wanted to follow them for all their quirks. I recommend this, and plan to pick up another novel by Wayne Johnson soon.
These were also good reads, and I recommend them in this order:
Celine by Peter Heller
The Painter by Peter Heller
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
The Tenth of December by George Saunders
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
A Good Cry, poetry by Nikki Giovanni

Living in the Here and Now

Regardless of what you think is coming, health-wise or otherwise, you will feel better (and behave more in line with your values) if you can stay in the present. This quote from Frank Bruni’s memorable column on losing his vision in the NYTimes:

Joseph Lovett, 72, a filmmaker whose 2010 documentary, “Going Blind,” chronicles the slow worsening of his vision from glaucoma, told me that his best counsel was that “you cannot spend your life preparing for future losses.” It disrespects the blessings of the here and now.

What’s your story?

I love this video of Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt talking about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories either empower or constrain us.

What is the story I am telling myself about my situation? How do I feel, and behave, when I tell myself this story? If I stopped telling myself this particular story, over and over, what else might I see, hear, or experience?