Retirement Happiness — let people know you care

How do you let people know that you care about them? How do you let people know that you appreciate the things they do to help you?

Too often we take for granted that people know how much they mean to us, that they know the things they do are appreciated, that they know we love them. We forget to tell them.

Do you regularly tell your partner/significant other that you love them?  Do you tell your friends how much their friendship means to you?  Do you tell your adult children how much you love them? Do you let your doctor, trainer, minister, financial advisor, dentist, and  barber/hair stylist, know that you trust them and value the support and services they give?

Daily encounters give many opportunities to let others know that they are appreciated. It may be a neighbour who watches your house, a clerk who advises about new products, a telephone support operator who provides online technical support, a mechanic who maintains your car. These people give valuable information and help.  They make life easier.  They keep our lives on track.

Yet, too often, we take them for granted. Sometimes, we even  forget to thank them.

I will be the first to admit that, too often, I’m guilty of taking people  and the things they do, for granted.

While I often tell my husband how much I love him, I often forget to thank him for taking care of my car, or doing the banking, or setting up the coffee pot at night.

I often let my son know how much I love him but I may not let my daughter-in-law know how much I love and respect her.  After all, she is the woman who so capably mothers our grand-child.

I try to let my friends know what their friendship means, but I often forget to be explicit about the ways they make my life better.

Where I really fall down with letting people know I care is with the long list of those who make my life comfortable, who provide services for me, or who I admire for the work they do. I’m appreciative when my house gets cleaned. I value my yoga mentor.  I leave a tip when I get my hair cut even if it’s the shop owner who provides the service. I do small favours for my neighbour and watch her house when she’s away. But, I don’t often express gratitude to them.

It’s not always easy to let someone know that you care. For many families, outright expression of the words ‘I love you’ is a taboo.  This was the case in my family of origin.  Only as I became an adult, did I tell my mother directly that I loved her. I was surprised to hear her heartfelt response of love for me and I am forever grateful that such tenderness was expressed before she died.

In the broader society, it’s not socially appropriate to tell someone who provides professional services to you that you care for them.  I can let my doctor and dentist know that I respect their advice and help. But I’m not sure that I’m ready to be too expressive, beyond saying thank you, with the sales clerk who helped me buy a sweater or the telephone operator who helped me deal with an internet problem.

In some situations, sending an email, giving support through a tweet or a Facebook ‘like’ is the modern way to express thanks and also to show you care. An old fashioned note by snail mail takes more time but is always appreciated.

A smile or a kind gesture is another way to express appreciation.  It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day with a compliment. Often, even the smallest gesture of kindness makes a big difference. We can also cook a special meal, send flowers, or buy a small gift to acknowledge people we care about.

Expressions of love and gratitude make both you and the other person feel good. Kinds words and deeds are important. By letting others know how much they matter to us, how much we care about them, or how helpful they have been in making a difference in our lives, relationships are strengthened.

Finally, a word from elders.  Karl Pillemer, in a recent Huffington Post article, “Living a Life Without Regrets”, advises that if we have something to say to someone, we should do it before it’s too late. As we grow older, it’s important to remember that there may not be a second opportunity to say what is needed.  Critical things can’t be left for a future that grows smaller everyday.

I hope that all who read this post find ways to let people know we care about them.  With some thought, all of us can make a conscious effort to pay more attention to what others do for us — and to let them know how much they are appreciated.


Are you living your life purpose?

Are you living your life purpose? Are you true to yourself? Are you living your life in the way you want to live? Is your life meaningful to you?

These are difficult questions as too often we live in ways that help us conform to society.  Or, we find ourselves doing things that others suggest.  Too often, going along with what a spouse, friend or adult child suggests shapes the day and shapes how we live.

Being true to yourself starts with knowing who you are and accepting yourself. It involves knowing your values, and developing a purpose for your life. In the 60s, this was often called living to the beat of your own drummer.

The journey begins with introspection. What is important to you?  How do you want to live?  What actions are consistent with your purpose?  Does your daily schedule move you toward fulfillment of obligations to yourself?

In retirement, there is no time for excuses, no time for prettiness, no time for conformity. We need to understand and acknowledge who we are and live in ways that are true to the chosen path.  What others think, believe, and expect needs to take second place to what you want for yourself.

Who are you?

The core of who you are develops through childhood and early adulthood.

As we grow older, friends, co-workers, and other close associates influence us — either affirming or challenging who we are. We may seek to become more like the people we admire. We may try to emulate people who demonstrate qualities that we would like to adopt. We may try on different identities in our family, in the workplace, and in society until we develop our own identity. Identity forms the core of your inner self.

Becoming aware of the inner self is a life-long process that involves introspection and self-awareness. You continuously ask questions of yourself.  Questions like: What do I stand for? What motivates me? What are my hopes and dreams for my life?

Understanding your values

Personal values and awareness of the inner self are closely related.

Values form as a result of the attitudes and beliefs of caregivers who raise us.  This process begins with how caregivers meet our basic needs. As we grow, we learn to conform to certain social norms.  Environmental factors, societal expectations, experiences, and culture influence values and beliefs.

Values determine the real you and define the inner self.  The ways we think, talk, dress, and act demonstrate how values get aligned with daily decisions.

Understanding your inner self means clarifying important values — truth, justice, love, hope, optimism, respect, honesty, self-respect. It means giving yourself permission to live life according to your strengths and passions.  It means recognizing your limitations, taking steps to overcome deficiencies, and, accepting those limitations that can’t be overcome.

What is your life purpose?

The foundation for developing a life purpose, or personal mission statement, depends on understanding the inner self and personal values. Unlike values, life purpose changes over time.

For example, in years of career development, purpose likely reflects aspirations and goals related to work and other accomplishments.  When I was a young mom and when I was growing in my career, my life purpose/mission more clearly related to parenting, continuing education goals, and career development.

Writing my first mission statement was a result of reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and working with a trainer and coach. The first draft was a ‘wordy’ document where I expressed  my philosophy and valuesgradually this became a concise statement of beliefs and goals.

I recently revised my purpose statement as so much has changed since retirement and since becoming a grandmother. My purpose now relates to the things I value in retirement — being a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend — as well as aspirations about writing, compassion, and self-care. I’ve expressed these intentions in a revised personal mission statement.

My personal mission statement ends with these words “truth, justice, respect, and a sense of fun will guide my days”. These words express intention about how I want to live.  They provide direction for daily decisions  and express the core values that motivate and inspire me.

I hope that this post about being true to yourself inspires readers to write, or review, or revise your statement of life purpose.  Knowing who you are, your values and your life purpose makes for a happy, meaningful, and inspired retirement.

Respect the Speed Limits of Life — Part 2

As a result of a comment regarding a recent post,, I had further thoughts about the practicality of the speed limits of life commitments I’ve made.

A loyal reader and good friend gently reminded me that life is short. To live well, retirement should not be about rigid schedules and productivity expectations.  She advised doing what is possible every day and then carrying over tasks that are not completed without worry or frustration. Her comment caused me to think about the expectations I’ve set and committed to until the end of the year.

To respect the speed limits of life, I decided to use retirement time more effectively by scheduling and allocating time for various activities and tasks.

I realize that I can’t approach every day with a rigid time schedule complete with estimates of how much time I will devote to various activities on the schedule. However, scheduling certain activities gives more time to finish projects, to enjoy hobbies, or to relax. Less time is frittered away.

Creating  definite time slots for various activities  is an old time management technique used during career days to assist with managing priorities.  I am trying to adapt this to managing time in retirement without getting overly rigid about how I spend time.

Speed limits of life -- sample schedule with time slots
Speed limits of life — sample schedule with time slots

When discussing the time management challenges with my friend, I acknowledged that some things would always take precedence.  I won’t compromise on family time or opportunities to spend time with friends.  If my husband proposes an activity or an outing, I will shift my priorities.  If my son, daughter-in-law, or grand-daughter needs a favour, I’ll do my best to be there for them.

Aside from time for family and friends, two key items for most days include writing time and exercise.

Sometimes writing and research for blog posts will take two or three hours.   On other days, writing a journal entry in the morning as I drink my coffee will suffice for my writing commitment. I use my journal to keeping a log of ideas for blog posts which helps with choosing topics when it’s time to do the writing.

Exercise is on a weekly schedule. I try to get to the gym to workout on cardio and weight machines, to attend certain aqua fit classes and to attend yoga classes.  This involves ensuring that I have the right exercise clothes packed in my gym bag, driving to the gym in morning traffic, getting to the locker room in time to change for the activity, and then showering and dressing afterward. It takes a minimum of two hours and usually happens on three days of the week, and preferably, on four or five days. When there is no time for the gym, I walk — weather permitting!

An aspect of respecting the speed limits of my life involves measuring time spent on various activities.  Metrics provide data that gives needed information to make decisions about what can be changed or streamlined to manage the mundane tasks, like housework or shopping or doing errands.

Life will never be perfect and I will sometimes ‘goof off’.  In my mind there is a difference between ‘goofing off’ when it is done consciously and when it happens without paying attention. Before I blink, a day, or a week, is frittered away with little productivity or satisfaction.

Using time effectively should help to optimize retirement activities for joy and happiness.  Success will give time to live without feeling frantic and hurried every day. Perhaps a scheduled approach to retirement activities will help me to achieve my dream of a relaxed approach to every precious day.

I’m interested in tactics and strategies that readers use to manage time effectively.  Everyone I know seems to have too much to do.  My retired friends keep saying that time goes by more quickly as we get older. How do you live consciously?  How do you deal with inevitable distractions?

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Respect Speed Limits in Life

I’m trying to learn how to respect the speed limits in my life.

Speed Limits
Speed Limits — photo courtesy of Bill Smith

Before I retired, I had a vision of a relaxed lifestyle with time for gardening, reading, playing the piano, knitting, and other hobbies. I imagined that there would be time to visit friends, time for travel, time to watch movies, time for regular exercise, and time to take courses.

I’ve done many of these things.

However, the relaxed lifestyle has been elusive!  I still feel addicted to ‘speed’ through the days, moving from one task or activity to another.

It’s difficult to slow down and relax. Something deep inside wants to continue to achieve results. An inner voice inside keeps making productivity demands. I evaluate the success of a day by  accomplishments.

Why are life’s speed limits difficult?

Some of the difficulty lies in my type A personality .  I have always pushed myself.  There is a ‘go-getter’ side of me that fears stagnation.

Perhaps there is something deeper that keeps me from the relaxed lifestyle? Is it FOMO (fear of missing out)? You can read a post about FOMO and social media here.

In spite of reminding myself that there is less to gain or lose as I no longer work for money, I continue to worry that I’ll miss something important in the retirement experience.

Is speeding through the day related to self-esteem?  Do I have to keep proving my worth? Doing and achieving are definitely linked to self-esteem.  Past accomplishments, recognition, and rewards make good memories that can’t be taken away. However,  it’s important to keep accomplishing various things during retirement to reinforce that we are capable and have value.

An achievement orientation may be a holdover from career days when deadlines, schedules, and performance expectations ruled. Those years left me addicted to productivity measurement and goal achievement.

Business school also played a part as it left me with strong convictions that measurement is one of the key principles for success. Metrics were emblazoned into my soul! Measurement and goal-setting became the ‘lynch pins’ for any good productivity strategy. Achievement ruled and high-speed expectations became the norm.

Some of the difficulty with respecting the speed limits in life can also be attributed to the speed-addicted culture in which we live. Whether it is the lightning-fast trading of financial markets around the world, or the speed of wireless communication, life zooms along. There is 24/7 information bombardment.

If my life has speed limits, there is no posted maximum or minimum. Just as when I get into a new car, there is the temptation to rev up my life and see how fast I can go. Retirement has not been synonymous with slowing down.

Moving toward a relaxed lifestyle

I’ve decided that accepting who I am is the first step.  My basic personality won’t change and past experiences won’t be erased. I will always want more from life. I will want to go faster, and do more than time allows.

The next step is to manage and change behaviour.  A time-crunched world requires realistic expectations. I can use my penchant for measurement with specific task lists that build time blocks for essential tasks and for relaxation.

Instead of only using a daily list, I will identify accomplishments for a week or a season. I will also predetermine how much time to spend on various activities. Calendaring each day and determining how much time to spend on various activities, will identify realistic speed limits for various activities in a week.

None of this will work unless I build in another step which is to allow time for relaxation, hobbies, social, and volunteer commitments. This is where the list gets separated into ‘must do’ and ‘nice to do’ activities. I know myself well enough to understand that I won’t relax or enjoy social times if essential tasks are not completed.

I also know that there are more ‘nice to do’ activities than there is time.  This is where respect for speed limits will be helpful.

Finally, I am making a commitment to readers of my blog to try this for two months.  By the end of the year, I’ll know if a more rigid approach to time management allows me to ease up. If I don’t learn to respect the speed limits in life, I won’t ever achieve my goal of a relaxed approach to retirement.

Thanks for reading this post.  I’m interested in advice from readers about how you respect the speed limits in life.  Please add your comments to my ramblings on time management — and wish me well in my aspirations to change my behaviour.  If you like reading postworksavvy, please subscribe to receive regular posts by email.




Get what you want out of life

As you grow older, it becomes more important than ever to use time to get what you want out of life. Time has value that diminishes with every day.  Time wasted in useless or unsatisfying activity can never be recaptured.

Unlike the world economy, politics, the stock market, or health, how time is spent is something over which there is control.

Through 2015, I’ve been struggling to manage a time-crunched lifestyle.  Earlier in the year, I decided to use the ‘rule of 2’ to deal with a schedule of activities that was overwhelming and unsatisfactory.

The ‘rule of 2’ meant that I would not participate in more than two activities outside of the house on any day.  I decided to count gym time as one activity which meant that on days when I spent the morning at the gym, I would schedule only one other activity — either in the afternoon or the evening.

I did this because I had so little free time. Commitments were limiting my retirement happiness.  It felt like the same vicious treadmill experienced during career days.  I looked through my schedule and resigned from boards and committees.  I learned to say ‘no’. I set limits on my time.

The ‘rule of 2’ was to allow more time for writing my blog, for hobbies, for hanging out with my husband or my grand-daughter, and, for just goofing off.

In response to a good suggestion from a reader of this blog, I also evaluated the commitments of every week and tried to limit these to a certain number in the week.  The reader, suggested a total of five or six commitments each week.  I haven’t achieved that number but I do try to have at least one day with no scheduled activity.

Getting what I want — Next Steps

Although I’ve made good progress with the ‘rule of 2’, I continue to struggle with effective use of time.  I’ve realized that limiting the number of daily and weekly activities is simply the first step in using time effectively.

My next challenge is to streamline daily routines.  I have slipped into a comfortable set of retirement routines that need assessment and tweaking. There’s a recent post on this topic.  http://postworksavvy/Daily Routines After Retirement/

I’ve been observing which routines bring satisfaction and what I might do to streamline the things I spend time doing. For example, how much research needs to happen before I begin writing a blog post?  It’s too easy to spend hours reading background information on a topic for a post without writing a word.  This cuts down the time available for the creative aspect of writing.

I’m taking a hard look at morning routines of drinking my coffee while writing my journal and playing with the cats. I know that my brain is sharpest early in the morning and I also know that most serious writers begin the day with creative writing time — no emails and no internet research. Notifications get turned off to minimize distractions and multi-tasking is avoided.

I can tweak morning routines to incorporate writing my blog posts while drinking my coffee.  Too often my relaxed morning routines extend for one or two hours, thus making the rest of the day a big rush. The cats don’t mind hanging out in the computer room as long as they get head nuzzles and attention. I can limit the time spent on journal writing or leave the journal for later in the day.

Another routine that I’m adopting is calendaring daily activities with definite time slots.  If I plan to play the piano or engage in some other hobby, I will schedule it along with an estimate of the time that I’m allotting to the activity.

I’ll also estimate time needed to complete routine household tasks that are easy to avoid.  Time allocation was a successful routine during career days when I had to juggle errands and household tasks with long hours spent at the office or traveling.

We know that habits come from routines. Results are produced that affect happiness. I’m making these changes to get more satisfaction from retirement. By further streamlining how time is spent,  my retirement pleasure should increase and I’ll be getting what I want from life.

I’m interested in how readers spend their retirement days.  Is time management a problem for others?  Please let me know your strategies for getting what you want out of life!

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As is the case for most readers, I’ve attended my share of reunions over the years.  High School reunions, university home-comings, class reunions, and work-related reunions.

These events often involve dinners, speeches, pub crawls, site visits and dances.  It is always great fun to see former classmates and former colleagues, to reminisce, and to recall accomplishments.

I often leave such reunions with mixed feelings.  Part of me is happy that I attended but part of me is left unsatisfied. The superficial contacts with others feel inadequate.  Although resolutions to ‘stay in touch’ are mouthed, the reality is that we return to our homes, families and current commitments.  The reunion is soon forgotten, except, perhaps, when an annual holiday or birthday wish is exchanged by email.

I recognize that life has moved along — for me, and also for others. What we once had in common is insufficient for significant engagement.  Shared experiences in the past don’t mean as much as the experiences that shape our daily reality.

This post is about two reunions in my life this month.  One already happened; the other will happen on this coming weekend.

A Special Reunion

There is an annual reunion, however,  that remains special.  It is a gathering that happens on a September Saturday.  On this day a group of women meet together to renew relationships that began in the ’70s when we worked together as teachers, child and youth workers, social workers, and psychometrists in a children’s mental health centre.

For most of us this was the first of many professional roles.  We were young with newly-minted degrees.  We had little actual experience with children but we shared a vision of creating a better life for the children and adolescents.

The agency was also relatively new having been formed just a few years previously under the leadership of a young child psychiatrist. The field of child and adolescent psychiatric treatment was developing as was the field of family therapy. Opportunities for learning abounded.  Visiting academics challenged us and we challenged each other. A wonderful reciprocity between young, visionary staff and a new agency resulted in many treatment successes for children and families.

As time passed, most of us left that agency seeking progressive positions, seeking more education, or different careers. However, relationships did not end. We stayed in touch — some women in the group enjoy close friendships with one another, some play bridge together; others see one another infrequently, sometimes only once a year at this reunion.

We began the annual get together ten or twelve years ago (nobody remembers quite when) and it’s become a cherished tradition. Everyone brings food and drink to share.  Sometimes we tell and re-tell familiar stories, but most often the time is used to catch up on personal and family events.  We share pictures, laugh, and, occasionally, cry together. Special life events such as retirements, anniversaries and birthdays are celebrated.

Aside from the pleasure of re-connecting with each other, this annual gathering provides a time to make new memories. Through the years, interpersonal bonds have grown stronger and friendships have deepened. We feel free to be ourselves, express our feelings, and make mistakes without judgement or criticism. A shared chemistry and common values make for stability in the relationships we have with each other.

Another Type of Reunion

Next weekend, we will see each other again but the gathering will be much larger as it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the children’s mental health centre where we met each other.  I look forward to that anniversary reunion but I expect different interactions among those attending. The shared history will be part of the event, but there won’t be the same deep connections with one another. It will be a ‘one-off’.

Evidence shows that most people do not keep close connections with workplace colleagues. At the reunion, each of us will remember the time we worked together with fondness.  It was a special mix of people. Marriages, partnerships and friendships happened.

I hope there will be name tags as I’m sure that all of us will have difficulty remembering names or, even recognizing one another as the years will have added both pounds and wrinkles. There will be great stories; we’ll exchange contact information; we’ll celebrate shared successes and disappointments.  At the end of the weekend, we’ll go back to our current lives filled with remnants of the energy and enthusiasm of former times.

Reunions serve as reminders of life changes.  Whenever I meet with people who shared important aspects of my life, I realize how many have helped me grow into who I am today.  My identity is reinforced. The laughter and good times feed my soul.

I’ll keep attending reunions — but will choose the events carefully. However, I do hope that our ‘special’ women’s reunion continues for years and years to come!

I’m interested in hearing about reader experiences with reunions.  Did friendships get renewed?  Were you disappointed that you attended?  Have you stayed in touch with people with whom you re-connected at a reunion? I look forward to your comments!

Here are links to other posts where I have written about reunion experiences: Why attend reunions?

Keeping in Touch — social networks that matter

Why some reunions make you happy

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Daily Routines after Retirement

A few weeks ago a friend who is about to retire asked about my daily routines after retirement.  She wondered how she would get into a new routine without the structure of a job that required getting up early, commuting, and meeting expectations in the workplace. Without a job that dictates the flow of a day, how would she fill her days?

Her question made me realize that I’ve developed a set of daily retirement routines.  With the four distinct seasons in Canada, there are seasonal variations in the routine, but core aspects remain the same. For example, in warm weather, I sit outdoors to drink my morning coffee; on cool days or during the winter, coffee is drunk in the cozy comfort of a living room chair — preferably near to a sunny window.

After a lifetime of being ruled by a clock I spent the first few months of retirement absolutely rejecting any structure or routine.  I relished the freedom of ‘going with the flow’ which meant eating when I felt like eating, sleeping when I felt like sleeping, and following no routines. I rejected anything that restricted the new freedom of retirement.

As time passed and I completed the honeymoon phase of the newly retired, I realized that routines matter in terms of life balance and self-esteem.  Gradually certain habits developed;  these habits provide routine and structure to most days.

These routines/habits have evolved over the five years since I retired.  I’m sure there will be further changes as time goes by.

My day begins with an hour or so of quiet time drinking coffee, listening to CBC world news, writing my journal, checking emails, and planning the day.  Then it’s time for showering, dressing, and preparing to face the day.

Exercise is an important part of retirement.  I build exercise into every week.  On three or four days, I go to the gym for aquatic exercise, strength-building, or yoga classes.  Gym time is usually followed by coffee and/or lunch with my husband or with gym buddies. On days when I’m not at the gym, I walk for about 45 minutes in the neighbourhood, or, when at the cottage, I walk on the beach.

Afternoons are usually devoted to writing, household tasks, errands, or hobbies.  On most days I cook — usually from scratch.  I make soups and stews during the cold months.  I love baking and bake all the bread for our household plus a supply of cookies and muffins for snacks. Sometimes there is an afternoon bridge game, or a meeting, or a nap!

Evenings don’t begin much before 8 or 9 pm as my husband and I enjoy late dinners.  Because of late eating schedule, we have little time before it’s lights out.  We may finish some of the household tasks that were left undone in the afternoon, do some reading, or, watch the late news on television.

There is always flexibility in the schedule.  After all, why retire if there won’t be time for fun or spontaneity? When a need or opportunity arises, I make adjustments.  If I’m asked to care for my grand-daughter, or go on a special outing with my husband, I abandon my routines.  Adjustments to routine are also called for when on vacation or traveling.

With repetition, many routines have become habits that I do without much thought or attention. Regular exercise and making time for writing are now habits that get incorporated into most days with little thought or planning. When retirement routines become habits, there is energy leftover for new challenges, for hobbies and new adventures.

Here is a link to  earlier postworksavvy thoughts on the topic of routines. Happy in Retirement — Good Routines

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Thoughts on Turning 70

As my birthday approaches, I have many thoughts on turning 70.  It seems that milestone birthdays — especially those that mark another decade merit reflection.

I’ve now lived seven decades of my life.  It’s truly a time for reflection!  I’m looking back at old journals as I can’t recall each of these important decade birthdays. I’ve previously written about celebrating a birthday. Thoughts on turning 70 are similar to those described in an earlier post Celebrating 66 Years — Every Birthday Counts. 

On my 20th birthday I got engaged.  In today’s society, I wonder how I was so sure of a relationship to make a long-term commitment at twenty. Times were different and love dominated all feelings. A few months later, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. Getting a good job and, living my life with a handsome man would fulfill my life’s dream.

By the time I turned 30, my husband and I had moved across the country to Montreal for graduate school.  We both completed our first graduate degrees and moved a couple of times before  settling into careers and our first suburban house.  I had begun my career as a child and family therapist in a children’s mental health center.  We traveled at whim, entertained frequently, and partied every weekend.  It was a carefree time.

Things changed again by the time I reached 40.  We had a bright, talented six-year old son who kept us busy with Suzuki music lessons, soccer, and other sports.  Parenthood brought more stability and responsibility.  My husband undertook studies for a PhD and my career took off with progressive management positions. I wrote the GMAT exam and began part-time studies for a MBA while continuing at my job.

The years flew past.  By age 50, we had moved once more, this time for my career, and into the house where we still reside.  I was managing a multi-site provincial agency, a role that involved long hours, travel and much more responsibility.  Our son graduated from a specialized arts high school and began university studies in Boston. He played élite level soccer on the provincial and the national team as well as at the NCAA varsity level. Social life changed again. Most weekends were spent traveling to soccer games or tournaments in various cities in Canada or the US.

My 60th birthday found me in another senior executive job with opportunities to influence the public policy agenda for children and responsibility for the policy and funding needs of child welfare agencies in the province. Our son was pursuing graduate studies in Scotland. The empty nest meant that my husband and I could travel again, which we did when opportunity arose.

Birthday Cake -- photo courtesy of Laura D'Alessandro

Over this weekend, I’ll celebrate 70 years. The past decade, like all others, passed without much notice. Retirement gave me a new ‘freedom to fly’ into the so-called third age.  A new identity has emerged through becoming a mother-in-law and a grandmother, writing this blog, developing new friendships, volunteering, and pursuing long neglected hobbies.

My thoughts on turning 70 have me wondering what the eighth decade will bring. I have enormous blessings including a loving husband and family, enough money to life a comfortable life, and relatively good health. I’m at peace with my age and hope that I have many more years of life as there is still so much to learn.

At twenty, I never thought I would get this old.  Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder whose reflection stares back. Gravity has taken its toll. I do think of my mortality. I face certain age-related issues as some aspects of aging have drawbacks. In a youth-oriented society, age stereotypes as expressed in a earlier post ‘Aging ‘Successfully’ lead many to make negative assumptions about me.

I’ve resolved that I won’t let societal expectations haunt me.  I won’t let this decade rush past.  I plan to lighten up, yet live my remaining years with purpose. I will stay hopeful about the future, confident about my abilities, and aware of my limitations. I will spend less time meeting expectations of others and take more time to focus on personal expectations. Getting old is empowering — I’m determined to use my experience, wisdom, and strength of character to grow old on my terms.

Thanks for reading my post.  I’m eager to hear reader comments about getting older.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber and you will receive future posts by email.

Birthday Cake photo courtesy of Laura D’Alessandro


Dealing with change

Dealing with change in retirement is important.

Like most people, I like to think that I’m good at dealing with change. I can adapt.

But recently, I had to confront myself.  Our niece was visiting us last month. The conversation turned to tactics for protecting the brain and keeping it active to assist in warding off dementia.

Our niece recommended an online word-finding game and offered  download the app to my smart phone.  My response was “No, I don’t like games and don’t have time for online games.”

That night as I was going to sleep, I replayed events of the day.  I thought about my  response to her genuine offer of something that could help me.

My curt ‘no’ reflected rigidity and inflexible thinking and not openness and adaptability.

It also reflected an unwillingness to change. Perhaps playing online games is a good strategy for keeping my brain agile as I grow older.

Recalling this conversation and my reaction has caused questions about how I deal with change to float through my thoughts.

Change Ahead_dealing with changeDealing with Change — photo courtesy of bigstockphoto

Thoughts on Dealing with Change

I thought about who influences me to make changes? Answers included my husband,  friends, my doctor,  my financial advisor, the media, and the internet. I also noted that sometimes an offhand comment will influence a change.

However, all significant changes in my life have come from my decision for action.  Sometimes it was a life-altering change like marriage or a move across the country or a decision to go to graduate school or to make a job change or to retire.  At other times, change involved a less consequential decision like changing a habit or trying a new activity such as learning to swim in adulthood.

I also thought of what causes me to make changes? Influences such as life opportunities, health concerns, legal requirements, and boredom were reasons for making a change. Some changes happened as a result of an inference or a dare. For example, I chose to establish and write a blog as one of my retirement activities after a work colleague told me, just before I retired,  that I had neither the skills nor the tenacity for blogging! I was determined to prove him wrong.

Many changes resulted from inspirations that have come unexpectedly.   An inspiration might come from a conversation, from something I’ve read, or from something discussed over a bridge game.

When the inspiration is consistent with my values, I pay attention.  Regular journal writing often influences and stimulates my creativity.  Sometimes, inspiration comes from nature or music or exercise.

I considered the discomfort caused by a change. Change is rarely easy. Although I dislike most games, playing online is low-risk and quite easy — even for beginners.  Winning is another matter but I’ll leave that for another post.

The level of discomfort depends on how significant the change might be and whether it is a positive change or a negative change.  The level of discomfort also depends on whether the change is self-initiated or imposed by circumstances. For example, it is much easier to adapt to a new job if changing jobs was a choice and not a forced change due to down-sizing or dismissal.

Many changes for self-improvement have been internally driven. I made a conscious choice to move away from my comfort zone and step into the unknown. Playing games online is an example of making a choice to exercise my brain.

Make Dealing with Change Easier

It’s easier to deal with change when you recognize that dealing with change is a process. Sometimes it requires long periods of adjustment. Sometimes it means leaving behind familiar people or abandoning habits that provided gratification. For major life changes, like retirement, the change process involves developing a new identity.

A positive attitude makes dealing with change easier. Regardless, of the type of change, a forward-looking, positive perspective, makes it easier to step into the unknown.

Internally driven changes for self-improvement, changes involving a conscious choice, and changes that are self-directed usually go smoothly.  Externally imposed changes are often more frustrating and stressful. For changes driven by circumstances beyond our control, a positive attitude is especially helpful.

It’s also important to give yourself compassion when dealing with change.  You may not succeed as quickly or as skillfully as you hoped.  The way that circumstances or events cause upheaval in your life may cause disappointment. Dealing with change is easier if you adopt a forgiving and compassionate attitude toward yourself.

I’m slowly learning to understand that dealing with change is a process that benefits from a positive attitude and a good dose of self-compassion.  I’m getting better at adapting.  I know that I’ll repeat these steps constantly and that’s okay because living well means dealing with constant change!

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Letting Adult Children Solve Their Problems

One of the most difficult things for a parent is to stand back and let adult children solve their problems.

In the past three months, I’ve watched my adult son change jobs, sell his house, buy another house, and move to a different city.

It’s been an unbelievably stressful time for him and for our daughter-in-law. It’s also been stressful for us as it was our custom to take a 20 minute drive to have dinner together at least once a week.  We will now  need to travel two hours to visit with them.

Some of their decisions seem quite risky as both quit well-paying, stable jobs with excellent benefits. However, they wanted to leave the big city environment of Toronto for a quieter lifestyle in a smaller city in Southern Ontario. There is a special twist to this decision as they have moved back to the city where our son was born and where we lived until he was twelve years old.  He characterizes the move as going back to his home town.

I’m proud of the fact that I’ve minded my business through this period of change. I’ve dealt quietly with my discomfort and misgivings. I’ve refrained from giving unsolicited advice or offering an unsolicited opinion.

Instead, I’ve given emotional support and encouragement but have left them solve their problems in their own way. This has meant backing away and allowing them to deal with the issues that these changes have brought.

How to let adult children solve their problems

When asked for advice, offer it — but only offer advice when requested. Further, don’t be offended if the advice is not taken.  Times and circumstances are different so advice based on your experience may not be helpful.  Ultimately, the decisions and the consequences of decisions are their issue. Let them listen and then back off.

We are fortunate to have a good relationship with our son and he often seeks our opinion.  He listens and appreciates the information, wisdom, and guidance we offer. However, he often follows a different course of action.

Respect boundaries. As an adult with a family of his own, our son’s primary responsibility is to his wife and child — not to his parents.  They have their own values, their own child-rearing ideas, and their own priorities.  I know that he still loves us as parents but our needs and preferences are no longer his primary concern.

I respect their privacy as I understand that what happens in their marriage or their immediate family is not my business — nor is what happens between my husband and me their business.

We want a long-term. respectful relationship with our adult son and daughter-in-law, so we are careful to keep strong boundaries.

Recognize their capacity to solve problems. Our son and daughter-in-law are independent and capable people who have responsible jobs and who are parents themselves. They know a thing or two about the world and are quite capable of solving the daily problems of their lives. They like recognition for their accomplishments but need space to manage situations.

As parents, we have the parental instinct to protect children from harm.  This instinct doesn’t go away just because they are adults yet the parental urge to protect never stops. Recognizing that adult children may experience such protective urges as meddling is important for good relationships.

Give concrete help when needed. Adult children often need and appreciate concrete help.  Often, it is financial help to get through a crisis. For many adult children, knowing that they can move back home when things are rough is security and concrete help.

During this time of change, our son and daughter-in-law needed our help with caring for our grand-daughter while their house was shown to prospective buyers, while they were house hunting, and during their move. We did this willingly as we had the benefit of spending many hours with our grand-daughter and strengthening that relationship. Their move was less stressful because they could count on us for child-minding.

This time of change for our family has been a time for personal growth.  I’ve realized that I have the ability to ‘let go’ and to let things evolve. In the past, I may have tried to be more involved, to provide guidance and to give direction.  Backing off made life easier for me and gave me time to purse my retirement happiness.

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Inspirations for a Happier Retirement

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