Saying Good-bye to Favourite Books

To date, saying good-bye to favourite books has been the most painful aspect of the de-cluttering and purging experience as we prepare to sell our house.

Readers know that my husband and I are in the midst of a ‘basement bootcamp’. We are purging   One long wall of the finished area of the basement plus two large bookcases in my husband’s den contain a library of professional books.  Some of these are text books, some are reference books, some are bound journals, some are collections of writings by people who influenced our careers. My best-loved books including some 300 cookbooks are in upstairs rooms — mostly in over-flowing bookcases.

With easy digital access to any information we need, we decided to eliminate most of these books as part of the purge before moving. Since retirement I’ve had time to use the public library where I can borrow everything I want including ebooks.  I stopped buying bestsellers and other popular books but never disposed any books.

The decision to eliminate most of our books brings more difficulties than  anticipated. The books represent cherished memories. They have been companions during times of success, happiness, travel, stress, relaxation, learning, and loneliness.  They are reminders of degrees earned, professional certifications, and career benchmarks. They have brought comfort and affirmation. In short, books are part of the intimacy of our lives.

Books opened my world

Growing up on a remote Saskatchewan farm meant little access to books except for the few tomes that my parents owned, many of which were in languages other than English.  I remember receiving books by mail from the Saskatchewan lending library.  Borrowing was limited to two books selected by a children’s librarian. The library books arrived by mail, were read, and, once returned, another two books were mailed to me.  There was no UPS or expedited delivery so the two-week  stretches of time between returning the books and receiving the next shipment seemed interminable.

With this history, its little wonder that I loved owning books once I was in a position to do so.  Every textbook, atlas, dictionary, and thesaurus was practical and precious.  By reading books of general information the world opened. Books were my teachers.  They helped to  feel that I belonged somewhere. I loved every book I owned; and, I kept most of them.

Relationships with Books

As my husband and I sorted the books, we realized that almost every book represented a memory or an emotional connection . Perhaps  an admired colleague or teacher authored it.  Perhaps it represented a theory that shaped and guided how we worked. Perhaps it was a journal that contained a cornerstone reference article.

We had relationships with these books. Some were well-thumbed.  Some are in pristine condition.  Pages in most of the paper-backs had yellowed. Our books represented learning experiences during years of study.  They represented career accomplishments, interests, and hobbies. They represented hours of relaxation.

Access to professional materials on our library shelves provided security. Before the internet, these books contained references and information for helping interventions.  Each of us used our books in different ways — for writing, research, teaching, guidance, and inspiration.

Some books reminded us of special times in our lives including  books on Suzuki music instruction, on Montessori education, on child development, on parenting an adolescent, on dealing with grief, and on managing a career. The Do-it-Yourself books, gardening books, and hobby books sparked memories of phases of life when various interests prevailed.  Books of poetry were reminders of how we explored the complexities of our lives.

Saying Good-bye to Favourite Books

We decided that most of these books represented the past.  It was time to discard most of them.  We filled box after box of books and hauled them to the re-cycling depot.

Filling the first few boxes was difficult, but as we purged, it became easier and easier.  Books that we had kept because we might re-read them or use them for reference were discarded.  We decided that if we need that information again, we could find it. We also knew that if a book sat un-used for years, it would not be missed.

Many books were new.  Good intentions sparked the purchase but they were never read. Discarding these felt like throwing money away.  We used the same logic as with the books that had been kept for re-reading.  If the book sat on the shelf for years without being read, it would not be missed.

Each of us kept a few special books or classics.  These represent a bit of a safety valve.  They are books that make us happy or bring comfort,  A few of the keepers were signed first editions.

In future, we’ll know the true impact of this radical culling.  Yes, we might miss some of the books, but I somehow doubt this.  Life moves on and trying to drag the past along is an unnecessary burden.


Basement Bootcamp

Since January 1, we’ve had a basement bootcamp. In preparation for selling our house, we have to purge years of stuff  stored in various parts of the basement to get the house ready for the market.

Potential buyers would be aghast to see the basement disarray.  Books, craft materials, and other things that have accumulated during twenty-five years of living here fill the finished areas. The unfinished areas housing the furnace, water heater, and water softener are in worse disarray — if that’s possible!

The Bootcamp Strategy

Bootcamp is a strategy advocated by Gretchen Rubin in her podcast, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, as a method for getting things done.  She recommends setting aside a weekend, a week, or a month to focus on completing a task or a big project.

It’s not dissimilar from taking a week of vacation to attend a spa that concentrates on kick starting a health, fitness, and weight loss program or going to a weekend yoga retreat.  Basically, a bootcamp involves scheduling concentrated time to barrel through a job that’s been avoided and needs uninterrupted time for completion.

The bootcamp strategy has worked for me on several occasions.  In November, I set aside a week to clean the kitchen cupboards and pantry. I’ve taken various online blogging courses that involved 4 to 6 weeks of focused learning. Often, I do a cooking or baking marathon on a weekend to stock the freezer although cooking and baking never feels like a bootcamp. Most readers will remember those all-nighters when we crammed a course load of knowledge into our heads in preparation for an exam.

Our Progress

During the first week of bootcamp, we sorted and organized. This sounds easy but every box brought decisions and memories. What should be kept?  What should be discarded?

Much of the sorting involved reading or reviewing documents filed in dusty banker’s boxes. There were boxes of note books, journals, agenda books, annual reports, and conference notes that required shredding. There were boxes of data that my husband collected when writing his dissertation as well as boxes of tax returns, financial statements, bank statements, invoices and insurance policies. We laughed while sorting a file drawer full of guarantees and warrantees as most were for appliances or equipment or vehicles we no longer own!

There was a day of non-stop shredding.

Bootcamp — shredding!
Boot camp — shredding!

A huge pile of books, journals, and magazines to be taken to the paper re-cycling depot now fills one corner of the garage.  Dusty boxes filled with cables, cords, antiquated electronic devices, hooks, and other unknown contents were set out on garbage collection day last week.

We sorted sports equipment including bicycles, ski racks, skis, soccer boots, skates, baseball gloves, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, weights, and weight lifting benches.   Some things went directly to the garbage and some are ear-marked for donation.

We’ve set aside a pile of boxes of our son’s possessions that remained at home after he left.

Bootcamp — our son’s sorting!
Bootcamp — our son’s sorting!

These include sports cards, toys, games, books from grade school through to university, music tapes, sports team gear of all types, boxes of awards, school report cards and trophies. We will rent a van and drive these to his house for him to sort or donate.

During the second week, the tougher decisions came.  Which books on the shelves that line one long wall should we keep? Most are dated but loved.  Disposal means another trip to the City’s re-cycling depot.P1010880

We are still faced with boxes of video tapes, CDs, and audio tapes; several large plastic containers filled with Christmas decorations, lights, wrapping paper; containers of knitting supplies; small electrical appliances in working order; and boxes of antique preserving jars inherited from my mother. Most of these things need a new home — perhaps in the dump.

The keep or toss process brings on enormous bouts of decision fatigue. It’s stressful.  It takes time. It’s also a lot of physical grunt work.

I’m looking for the feelings of relief and emotional lightness from purging.

This process makes me think of a Winnie the Poo story that our grand-daughter enjoys.  In the story, Winnie the Poo, Tiger, Owl, and Piglet set out to look for the pot of gold under the rainbow. They don’t find a pot of gold but they find the treasures of friendship and a walk in the sunshine. Perhaps our treasure will be the freedom of a down-sized lifestyle, time for hobbies, and many new adventures.

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Selling our House — Reality Hits

Yesterday we met with a real estate professional. During the two plus hours he spent with us, the reality of selling our house began to hit. Until we started to look at various documents that we will sign to list the house, proposed marketing processes, and timing for the listing, selling the house seemed just a future plan.  During the meeting, it became a hard reality.

The realtor, recommended by people we trust and people who have used his services in the past, was professional.  He knows his business and has a clear selling strategy.

Prior to the meeting he asked us to review several documents that he sent by email. These materials described how he worked,  described the networks within his company, and provided links to his Facebook page, his website, the Ontario Real Estate Code of Ethics, and testimonials from former clients.  We also received pdfs of the documents we would sign.  A plain English version of each clause accompanied the legal terminology of the real estate forms. He asked us to prepare for the meeting by reading each document and thinking about questions  to discuss.

We also received a description of how we should prepare the house for selling.  This multi-page document, contained suggestions about how each room should look when prospective buyers visit the house.  Aside from cleaning, organizing, and de-cluttering, it’s necessary to remove all personal items. The lists include family photos, awards, and personal memorabilia so as not to create a museum of our lives; however, the lists also suggest removing everything from kitchen and bathroom counters — even soaps!

As we walked through the house, I was not surprised with the suggestions. The five briefcases stored in a corner of my den need to go!  Two bookshelves and two reading chairs in our bedroom along with the books need to go! Bookshelves in all other rooms need culling.   It was suggested that we arrange small stacks of books interspersed with shelved books and empty spaces. knickknacks need to be packed away.   The fridge needs to be cleared of all pictures, magnets, and announcements! Oriental rugs need to be rolled up so the floors beneath can be shown. Silverware, jewelry, and other valuables need to be put away securely. Bulletin boards need to be taken down.  Desks need to be clear of everything except computers, lamps, and printers.

In short, the house needs to be de-personalized.

We also need a plan for moving our two cats, their three litter boxes, the four cat dishes, and the feeding station out of the house.  Apparently, many buyers don’t like houses with pets as inhabitants and won’t even tour a house if they suspect that pets live there!

The realtor’s comments did not astonish us but do signal a lot of work to prepare the house for sale.  The messages were delivered kindly with obvious understanding that 25 years of living in a house meant that each room was filled with memories and the stuff of living.

We know that the things that make our home comfortable and precious to us won’t necessarily charm potential buyers. My fear is that the house will look like a hotel or a furniture showroom once serious purging begins.

As our possessions are packed away, given away, or thrown away, the house will begin to feel different.  It already does. The  reality of selling our house and preparing it for others to see brings strong feelings of angst, loss and change.

Sentimental attachment to a house is normal and parting with it will be difficult. To get through the next few months, we will need to set our feelings aside while implementing the realtor’s suggestions to market the house successfully. We will need to keep a strong vision of the future lifestyle we want as we grow older. Putting feelings into perspective, holding on to our dreams, and reminding ourselves that the inevitable upheaval of staging the house is temporary, will help us to accept the reality of selling.

Thanks for reading this post.  If you like my blog, please consider becoming a subscriber.  I welcome reader’s comments and any advice for de-cluttering, purging, staging, or selling a house.

Year of Change

A new year brings opportunities for new beginnings.  For me, 2016 promises to be a year of change.

After much thought, many late night discussions, and the need to face aging realistically, my husband and I decided to sell the too-big house that’s been home since 1990.

We are tired of maintaining both our city house and our cottage at Lake Huron.  Both have care-taking, gardening, snow removal, and cleaning  responsibilities.

It’s time to down-size, or perhaps, right-size.  We plan to move to a smaller home in another Ontario city closer to our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter.

Proximity to family is important in this decision but a key advantage of our planned move is that driving to the cottage will take 45 minutes instead of 3 hours. We are also going back to a city where we lived for many happy years.

Just thinking about moving brings intense emotions. Coupled with anticipation of new beginnings are feelings of loss, fear, and anxiety.  Thinking about packing and sorting our belongings is daunting even when I re-frame these tasks as an opportunity to purge. I know that moving means leaving parts of myself behind.

The sentimental attachments run deep — not only to our house but also to our community. I’ll miss my neighbours, my bridge friends, my knitting meet-up group, my book clubs, my church friends, and my gym friends.

I’ll miss our house. There is comfort with simple things like knowing exactly where I stow various hats, shoes, and gloves in the hall closet. I’m at peace when I sit in the kitchen and look at the back garden where trees planted as saplings now shade the house. Memories fill every room. Experiences within the walls have shaped my life for 25 years.

The decision to sell and move was made mutually with my husband.  We agree that down-sizing to a smaller house with all amenities on one floor is right for us in terms of retirement independence. Living in a smaller house will free up time to pursue those things that matter more — time with family, time at the cottage, and time for hobbies.

We know that it’s wise to make the choice to down-size freely and not have it forced on us by necessity as we grow older. Self-determination and agency are important variables in maintaining happiness.  This means adapting our lifestyle, hopefully without too much compromise except to buy more help with heavy householder tasks.

In almost 50 years of marriage, we have  rented apartments, bought and sold houses, moved across Canada and lived in several cities. Regardless of the physical setting, we have accumulated memories of a home life that provides love and comfort. It’s not the house but the love and respect within that makes a home.

Home, and all that it means, including the physical space, is the centre of my universe. It represents family, contentment, safety, and stability.  There is security in knowing that my inner self is sheltered whenever I walk through the door. Once inside, I am free of any public persona. I am me.

In the coming months, you’ll read posts about my journey of down-sizing, moving, and change. I know that many postworksavvy readers have made similar changes during retirement. I’ll depend your advice and support.  In turn, I’ll share lessons I’m learning in this phase of the retirement journey.

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A New Year and A Year-End Assessment

Happy New Year to all postworksavvy readers!

Many readers know that I write monthly posts for a retirement newsletter.  In today’s publication at you will find my year-end assessment, along with other interesting articles.

I highly recommend the article, “Retirement — Regrets and Resolutions”, written by John Copelton, editor of Exploring Retirement. Prior to retirement, John worked as a psychologist.  His extensive training in positive psychology comes through in all of his writing.


‘Good Stress’ — Have a Happy Holiday

This year I plan to have a ‘good stress’ Christmas.

For too many years, this holiday meant rushing through the days of December with anxiety about entertaining, panic as I searched for the right gifts, worry about what to wear to obligatory parties, and concern about food preparations. I used to joke that I needed a wife to get through the holiday.

I tried to re-create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as portrayed in the media and in my fantasy.  In retrospect, I was trying for something that never existed!

When the holiday arrived, I was exhausted.  Too often, I collapsed with a bad cold or the flu on, or, just after, christmas day.

I plan on a ‘good stress’ holiday because I realize that It’s not realistic to plan for a ‘stress-less’ holiday.  Negative or bad stress  robs us of ‘joie de vivre’, drains precious energy, causes sleeplessness, weakens the immune system, and endangers health.

Good stress, however, results in positive life benefits.  In small doses, stress can boost thinking capacity and motivation.  Most people experience enhanced feelings of well-being after meeting challenges and deadlines.

To date, I’m succeeding.  With days to go, I’m confident that I’ll get to the 25th in a positive frame of mind.

Coping Strategies for a Good Stress Christmas

  1. Starting early.  I baked my Christmas cakes, on the first weekend of December. I began shopping at the end of November and I did most of the shopping online.  With a couple of evening marathons, the gifts were wrapped, complete with ribbons!
  2. Making lists. Writing ‘to do’ lists and scheduling time to complete tasks helped with staying on track. Using a combination of lists and scheduling allowed me to  worry less about whether I had forgotten something important. As a bonus, the schedule also allowed for breaks, for goof-off time at the cottage, and for time just to sit quietly with the music and lights of the season.
  3. Down-sizing the entertaining agenda. A luncheon for bridge club buddies, a visit with neighbours, a Christmas Eve dinner for family, and a Christmas morning brunch are the only events  on the agenda. This gives time to socialize and connect with people who are important in my life. No overnight guests except for our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter. No travelling. I also refused several invitations, especially to parties with large numbers of guests.
  4. Using simple decorations. I’ve used a planter of Christmas shrubbery at the front door, battery operated candles in the front windows, fresh flowers indoors, and a pre-lit artificial tree that was easy to set up and doesn’t shed needles.  I miss the smell of a real tree, but not the fuss.

    Good stress Christmas -- image courtesy of John Statford
    Good stress Christmas
  5. Managing the gifts. I asked people what they wanted/needed for Christmas instead of trying to surprise them.  I also decided what I wanted so those who buy gifts for me can choose from a list of things I would like.
  6. Eliminating Christmas cards and the family Christmas letters. Some traditions need to end! Hand-written notes to a few people, telephone calls to others, and email greetings will suffice.
  7. Staying with exercise routines. When I get  moderate exercise three or four times every week, I have more energy and a better outlook on life.  Christmas movies mean more couch time. If the movie is on television, I try to do squats or lunges during the commercials.
  8. Eating healthy foods every day.  I’m determined to maintain my weight over the holidays by continuing to eat fruits and veggies that give lots of vitamins and minerals. This doesn’t mean that I resist  the lovely truffles, or other Christmas treats, but it means using good judgement. I’ll indulge in small portions of those high-fat, high-carbohydrate, and high-sugar treats.
  9. Getting enough sleep. Too often, sleep gets compromised in the effort to get things done before the big day. Lack of sleep leads to anxiety, bad moods, and over-eating. It depletes energy and compromises the immune system.
  10. Thinking about what Christmas means.  The advent season of hope, peace, joy, and love brings a special message each year. A bit of the sense of wonder experienced as a child comes back when I indulge in spiritual reflection.

Planning for a good stress holiday is a form of compassion and self-care. Instead of a frenzied month, Christmas 2015 has been a time for gratitude, togetherness with family and friends, and love for my neighbours.

I close with wishes for a happy holiday for all postworksavvy readers.  Merry Everything!

Good stress Christmas image courtesy of John Stratford


Laugh lines — Are they beautiful?

When discussing the joys and hazards of aging, we sometimes hear the comment that laugh lines are beautiful.

Is the comment sincere?  Is it authentic? Or, is it ingratiating and falsely flattering? Is there an implied criticism of how you look?

Too often we look at ourselves and say something like, “I look so old”. This happens for women and men alike. Is this vanity —  or ego?

Laugh lines and sagging facial muscles are usually decried and not adored.  Dermal fillers, collagen injections, skin peels, and photoshopping are used everyday to minimize signs of ageing.

The beauty industry makes billions with marketing techniques designed to make women, especially, worry that wrinkles, as signs of ageing, are cause for action.  We are urged to buy certain products, do various facial exercises, and undergo harsh chemical treatments to eliminate wrinkles.

Why are we susceptible to such marketing?  Is it fear of ageing? Is the plastic, paralyzed look of Botox treatment beautiful, particularly when fulsome smiles are no longer possible!

As someone who sports a good number of laugh lines, wrinkles, and other battle scars of living, I hold to the truth that laugh lines are beautiful.  I’ve earned every one of them, sometimes at great personal cost.

I’ll take laugh lines before frown lines. It’s a form of self-acceptance.

What makes laugh lines beautiful?

Laugh lines are clear evidence of living long enough to ‘age’.  In the Western world we forget that getting old is a privilege many never experience.  When my sister was diagnosed with her second, and, ultimately, terminal cancer, she expressed gratitude for living for 80 happy years.  This wonderful affirmation of her life was an example and a lesson.  Rather than moan about her fate, she recognized how blessed she was to have had a long life.

Laugh lines add character. I plan to keep laughing as much and as often as possible. Who doesn’t need a belly laugh every day? One of the benefits of a bridge group that I attend is the laughter that accompanies each game. Researchers on aging often recommend laughter as a method of staying young at heart. As well, laughter benefits health by reducing cortisol, a stress hormone.

Laugh lines tell the story of a life well-lived. Faces of older people who laugh a lot show a pattern of facial lines with wrinkles around the eyes.  People who frown tend to have wrinkles and sagging around the mouth. Facial lines form in the positions we adopt, either smiling or frowning. I’ve always smiled easily and I’m attracted to others who show joy on their faces. I’ll opt for laughter over sadness any day, even if laughter means crinkles and wrinkles.

When my husband of 49 years tells me that I look beautiful, it motivates me to look good for him.  His comments give incentive to keep my hair groomed and to wear make-up even when I’m just hanging around the house.  He compliments my smile. He never mentions wrinkles but will sometimes let me know that I look tired, especially when I’m cheating on sleep!

My laugh lines are permanent markers that show I’ve been blessed with happiness, good relationships, and good health. They have become part of me.

When we recognize that laugh lines are an inevitable by-product of the natural process of aging, we can move on to other, more important aspects of living.  I take responsibility for every line and wrinkle on my face and my body.  I like to remember that joy created most of these lines — there is no need to deny them nor to try changing them. These are reflections of my life.  I’ll wear them with confidence focusing instead on having important values such as truth, justice, and love in my life.

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Speed Limits of my Life — Interim Assessment

A month ago I resolved to apply some basic time management techniques to deal with the ‘speed limits’ of my life.  I found myself  rushing through every day instead of enjoying the relaxed lifestyle I had imagined before retiring. I needed to set ‘speed limits’ for myself.

As is the case for many people, retirement did not mean slowing down.  In fact, retirement brought a new set of internally driven productivity demands along with a lingering achievement orientation.

From talking with friends it seems that many people, especially women, need to set speed limits after retirement. To often we re-create a lifestyle similar to the one left at the office. Instead of career commitments, we have a schedule filled with volunteering, exercise, hobbies, and caring for grand-children. We take on too many projects.  This fills each day with commitments with little time for relaxation.

It’s been one month since I resolved to develop daily, weekly, and seasonal schedules to better manage time.  To understand what happened with this planning, I developed simple metrics so that I would have data on which to base decisions about what I needed to change. Here is what I’ve learned:

  • As expected, I try to do more than time allows.  My daily and weekly schedules are full.  Because I have too many projects to undertake, a review of priorities is  indicated.
  • I neglected to schedule enough free time for goofing off or relaxing. In the next month, I’ll try to have more slack in my schedule.
  • The schedule protected time for writing and exercise.   Writing and exercise are important in my life.  I’m reluctant to stop scheduling these important activities but I wonder whether I can cut gym time to from five to three days per week and continue to maintain good physical health.
  • I spent precious, unplanned time resolving IT issues. I did not grow up with the technology I use nor is it intuitive.  I’ll have to figure out how to cut some slack for IT-related problems.
  • During the month I achieved a good balance between ‘must do’ and ‘nice-to-do’ activities.  Many of the ‘must do’ activities took more time than I allowed, especially cooking and driving. The mundane routines and activities that are requirements for maintaining a house and a family take time and are not always pleasant!
  • There was enough flexibility in the schedule for family time, bridge games, and knitting. During the month we had two lovely family weekends at the cottage. We completed the seasonal work of cleaning up the leaves and putting away summer furniture while working at a relaxed pace. I give myself a gold star for not compromising family time!
  • Scheduling 10 hours in one week to complete a big project like thoroughly cleaning all kitchen cupboards worked well. This job had been put off for too long. I set aside 2 hours each day and tackled the cupboards before I did other things. I won’t have a big project every week, but finishing a big project needs either small chunks of scheduled time or a bootcamp approach — like a whole weekend!
  • I did not allow for important, yet unplanned time.  A meeting with our financial advisor led to other meetings plus review time.  All of this was necessary, but time-consuming. As a result, two other projects remain on the ‘to do’ list.

Tracking time, scheduling each day, and making a weekly plan has helped me to understand how I’m spending my time.  At the end of a month, there is a sense of accomplishment which is boosts self-esteem.

I still rush against time every day but I am gaining knowledge of how I use my time. With the preparations for December holidays, I know that I’ll be doubly challenged in this second month of time tracking.

All of us need purposeful and meaningful activity with a good mix of intellectual and physical activity.  Determination to manage time during retirement is not unique to this postworksavvy blogger. We want time to attend to relationships and take part in the wider society.

Retirement gives the gift of time.  Each of us will need to find ways to use every day effectively! I hope you enjoyed reading this update.  If you like my blog,please consider becoming a subscriber to receive regular email updates when I publish new posts.

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.

Inspirations for a Happier Retirement

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