Women Aging Well: The Intentionality of Happiness in Your 60s and 70s

Psychologist Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, has written a new book called, Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. It is number 10 on the hardcover nonfiction list and climbing fast.

The NY Times Book Review writes,

“In her book, which has entered its fifth printing since it was published on Jan. 15, Pipher cites research… suggesting not only that people become happier as they age but that the happiest people are women aged 65-79.

Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,”

 

In a NY Times Opinion entitled, The Joy of Being a Woman in her 70’s, Pipher describes us older women–

“We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins.”

I love that phrase, “thriving in the margins.”

Pipher, alongside Glenn Close and Nancy Pelosi, is jarring long-held stereotypes of aging American women slipping into lonely, unproductive obscurity.  Before the iconic Jane Fonda, all we had was Grandma Moses to emulate – the folk artist who famously began her painting career at the age of 78, staying current until her death at 101.

In 2019 we are fitter than our predecessors; we are living longer; and we are redefining retirement, if there is such a term these days.   Pipher says, “Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice” and as we enter our 60s and 70s we are perfecting our skill set.  According to Pipher, true happiness stems from things like self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.

So, barring illness or catastrophic events, it is up to us to choose these happiness-links, which were not esteemed by our Younger Selves distracted as they were by parenting perfection, job achievement, marriage fulfillment.  Although American society may still devalue mature women, Pipher says that we are increasingly happy and  vibrant.

 

But back to intentionality — the self-help literature on aging says it comes down to 3 E’s.

 

Exercise

Empathy

Engagement

 

Notice the word, Easy, did not make the cut.  It would be far easier to sleep instead of exercise, to pursue our own ends rather than the ends of others, to disengage rather than engage (in others, in activities, in learning).  Grandma Moses did have to pick up that paintbrush and prep a canvas. Jane Fonda did have to don her tube socks and leotards for her aerobic workouts.

 

So let’s strive to thrive.   Even in the Margin, which it turns out is the place to be – paved by Grandma Moses, and unabashedly inhabited by Pelosi, RBG, Close, and Fonda.

Pretty good company, I’d say!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-No offense to Grandma Moses, but we should definitely not go out our front door au-naturel.  We of 2019 have make-up, hair coloring, and fashion at our disposal.  And as my friend, Cathy, says, “Let’s wear make-up for the good of the world.”

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Sorry, Grandma Moses, the hat may have been ill advised.

-Check out this post on RBG.  Whatever your politics, you have to agree she embodies vibrancy and resiliency.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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Morning Routines: Developing Habits to Invigorate Your Day

What’s your morning ritual?

We retired folks want to make these last laps meaningful and energized.  When Laziness and Apathy knock on our door, we want to send them packing.

It all begins with how we start our day.  Without a 9 to 5 job, we Baby Boomers must  be intentional about adapting a productive morning routine.

Author Bryan Adams has written a piece for  Inc.,  in which he shares the morning habits of the highly-successful.

Oprah starts her morning with 20 minutes of meditation that, “fills her day with hope, a sense of contentment and deep joy.”   She then hits the treadmill to activate her body.

Tony Robbins performs breathing exercises.  With his eyes closed, he expresses gratitude for what he has, while taking 30 deep breaths.  He then prays for guidance for the day ahead.  Robbins says, “If you don’t have ten spare minutes to work on yourself every morning, then you don’t have a life.”

The late Steve Jobs always made his bed immediately upon waking.  Many say that this seemingly insignificant habit sparks a feeling of accomplishment.

My doctor says that upon rolling out of bed, she forces herself to do 25 push-ups. This, she says, wakes up both brain and body.

Personally, my brain and body are not so aligned.  My body has me eating cereal rather than doing push-ups and my brain advises that an hour more of shut-eye will be good for my skin.   My bed looks like a 5-year-old tried to make it.  And if I do meditate, 5 minutes feels like 5 hours during which my brain has buzzed from anxious thoughts about family to laundry.

So recently I was delighted to hear Rich Roll’s interview with David Clear , the author of Atomic Habits.  The content has given me hope for a more disciplined morning and a more productive day.

Here are 5 points from Mr. Clear that my brain and body are currently pondering.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you believe that you are.”  Even if you do one push-up or 2 measly minutes of meditation, this plants the mental seed that you, yes you, are the type of person who exercises and meditates.

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.”  You ARE your habits.  You may not deem them significant but each morning you write in your journal, you do your breathing exercises, you pray – over time these habits become who you are.

“Never miss twice.”  If you work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then have to skip a day because of illness or travel, make sure you do not miss the next time.  A good habit can vanish if you miss twice.

“Design your environment” for success.  If you want to develop a morning habit of flossing, place the floss near your toothbrush.  If you want to drink more water, pre-pour a bottle to carry with you.

Perform the first 2 minutes of a habit you want to develop.  Write down your accomplishments.  Small is good!

 

So, here’s to —

2 minutes of meditation, 5 push-ups, a bed that looks like an adult made it, and being a flossing water-drinker.

It’s a start!

 

Today’s Takeaways –

-It takes 21 days for form a habit. Go easy on yourself!  Celebrate the small.  Remember that 2 minutes is better than no minutes.

-One great habit can lead to more.  If you work out, you may just say no to Ben and Jerry next time they invite you to the freezer.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my grandmother’s trunk, I packed a…

Remember that memory game where each person adds to the accumulation in Grandma’s trunk?

My friend, Mary Rose, offered this advice as I prepared for a trip, “Don’t forget to pack your love, joy, and peace.”

My suitcase brims with such each morning.  But come evening, reflecting on the day gone by, I note a lack of love, a shortage of peace, and questionable joy.  My suitcase has snuck in self-promotion and a loose tongue, partly the result of one too many glasses of wine.

So with time at a premium for us Baby Boomers, join me in packing a trunk focused on love, joy, and peace.

Many faith practices entail prayer rituals exercised three times a day.  How about setting our phones to remind us to pause periodically for a moment of gratitude, or simply an acknowledgement of surrender, a look outside of ourselves?

Amy Morin in Psychology Today writes about 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

We will sleep better, have higher levels of self-esteem, enjoy deeper relationships, and experience satisfaction with life. In short, there will be more love, joy, peace.

“We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”

In my grandmother’s trunk I packed –

Gratitude, Love, Peace, Joy

And a timely cell phone reminder to get over myself.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Psychology Today also tells us that gratitude helps us stop comparing ourselves to others.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

-Hey Loose Tongue, why not spurt out a compliment or two.  The sincere kind.  It wouldn’t kill you!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  We are grateful for YOU!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

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Your Retirement Identity: I just feel like myself when…

“When I’m on a tennis court, I just feel like myself,”

I knew exactly what Judy meant by that comment.  There is something about the sounds and smells of an indoor tennis facility – balls bouncing and tennis shoes squeaking – that makes me “feel like myself”.   For 50 plus years, this setting has been akin to an anti-depressant, where life’s troubles are shelved for a couple of hours (and no weight gain!!…adds Joy.)

Where do you feel like yourself?

The forest preserve?  Your church sanctuary?  The public library?  A yoga mat?  Or at a Starbucks sitting across from a great friend, over-caffeinated and laughing your head off?  Remember laughter is the best therapy and I’d rather have laugh lines than any other wrinkle anytime!

Retirement offers us more time in such settings.  And time to discover new ones. In fact, the most happy retirees are those who discover new passions, new places to feel like themselves.

For me personally (Joy here) I crave being busy, over programmed, juggling tasks.  I’m not so sure I am ready for so much time to mull over my new state of being.  Perhaps, I just need to adjust.  If it takes me longer, that’s okay.  I will find my special place and I will know it when I see it.

Who better to help us than Oprah who offers a free passion quiz  —  under the enticing title, Who am I meant to be?

And then there’s Maria Shriver, our Mentor – who unfortunately doesn’t yet know she’s mentoring us.  Maria applauds those pursuing passions and making a difference.  Check our her interviews at Architects of Change.

Maria challenges US to be Architects of Change.

“We all have the power to be Architects of Change in our own lives, in our own homes and our own communities… to imagine what can be, then create what you envision. You can make a difference, play a part in moving humanity forward and ultimately, uniting it.  Together, we will create a more caring, conscious, connected and compassionate community.”

 

So for us,  this retirement season is a time to look beyond the tennis court and the yoga mat to imagine more.   More places to feel like ourselves. To forget ourselves.

We don’t need to conform to anyone’s image of who we should be.  Performance reviews are not given in retirement! (If they were though, Barclay and I deserve “much improved”!)

We may not yet be Architects of Change, but we can be Architects of Ending Strong. Whatever that looks like.

Oh and we may have to stalk Maria.  Just a bit.  Don’t tell her.  (She may get a restraining order!)

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-As much as we love Maria, it probably isn’t a good idea to stalk another person.  There are consequences!  Although, I’m sure her home is lovely!

-There really isn’t such a thing as retirement, is there?  It should be called “work in progress”!  We retired from the workforce, that’s all.  We are still the same people as we were when we wore professional attire!  Now my dress code is more yoga pants and a loose fitting tee shirt! Think of the savings in dry cleaner bills!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditation and the Monkey Mind

I (Barclay) downloaded an app called “Insight Timer” which offers 400,000 meditations.  Where to begin?

Then I noticed they had a course called “Learn How to Meditate in Seven Days” which sounded doable.

Day 1: The timer is set for 10 minutes.  A woman’s voice, slow and monotoned, tells me to breathe in through my nose and exhale through my mouth.  Feel your tummy rise with each inhale. After a bit, I peek at the timer.  7 minutes left. My phone says enough-of-this and beeps a reminder to put the laundry in the dryer – which I do.

Day 2:  The woman suggests we “explore the mind”.  Let your thoughts drift past, she says. Watch them but don’t attend to them.  Wait! What’s that? An ant scurrying for cover. If I don’t nab it, word will spread to other ants.  Good-bye Ant.  And good-bye morning meditation.

On Day 7  I mute the voice.

So there’s this thing called the Monkey Mind that Psychology Today suggests is our inner critic.

“It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.”

For some of us, this is near impossible.  I think my mind is more elephantine than monkey.  My thoughts are constantly racing-what medicare  plan should I take when I turn 65, what should I make for dinner, what if my children never get married, will I have enough money if I live to 90!!-just to be clear-Joy chiming in here.

They say that to tame our monkey mind we need to practice ……..wait for it……mindfulness.  A buzz word that’s lived its full 15 minutes of fame.  (Wouldn’t you just love to coin the next buzz word or phrase that means exactly the same thing??)

But that said, we should give mindfulness its due especially in tackling a monkey mind that’s bent on hijacking our meditation.

Author, Marelisa Fabrega, offers practical suggestions at her website, Daring to Live Fully.)

Let your monkey mind “run amok” for 10 minutes a day, she says.  Journal your thoughts.  Then if the MM starts up again, you tell it,

“Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

We should also question our MM.  When it raises a grievance, ask why it’s upset.  Counter your MM’s points using the ABC method.

Day 8:  I am breathing to the count of 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4.  I have the sound of a babbling brook on my phone.  My Monkey Mind tells me that I am late in paying a bill, but I ignore it.  5 minutes passes.  Victory.

Clearly, I won’t be hosting a seminar on meditation any time soon.

But hey, it’s a start!

Today’s Takeaway:

-Set apart time for daily reflection and meditation – whatever duration and practice is right for you.

-Let’s put some serious thought into inventing the next buzz word to replace “mindfulness”.  Just think of the best sellers we will write and the talk shows we will grace!!

Enjoy the ride!

Ommmmmm…..

xox Barclay and Joy

Warding off Depression in Retirement

It can sneak up on you.  Especially if your self-image has centered around your career.  Especially if you don’t have an established routine. Especially if your mind has time on its hands.

You used to have that go-to identity.  I am a _____.   

Now when asked what you do, there’s a caveat.  I used to be a _______ .  Or   I am a retired-_________.

Then there’s the auspicious question,  So now that you’re retired, what do you do all day??

Self-doubt can creep in, especially after the euphoria passes.  And with that self-doubt, depression can make a surprise appearance.  You may feel that no one can relate.  After all, you are the lucky one.

It may be a case of expectations being derailed.  This is supposed to be the best time of your life.  The time you’ve saved for, planned for.  Upon its arrival, you’ve traveled, you’ve mastered the strudel recipe, you’ve taken the dancing class.  Now too much leisure coupled with too little structure leaves an emptiness not anticipated.

You are not alone.

According to the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs, “The likelihood that someone will suffer from clinical depression actually goes up by about 40% after retiring.”   Work-life has provided the ingredients to life satisfaction — social connections, a steady routine and a sense of purpose.   When work is taken away – even by design and desire, depression can ensue.

So what to do?

Investopedia cites 6 ways to overcome depression in retirement.

Staying in shape. Being social. Developing a schedule. Giving back.  And maybe hitting the classroom or finding part-time work.

The bottom line, they say, is to get a plan.

If the depression becomes too much to handle, this plan may involve medication, talk therapy, or a combination of both.  And that’s not something to be embarrassed about.

So be aware that an abundance of leisure has to be balanced with purpose and routine — a plan to be occupied mentally,  physically, and spiritually.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much time to worry as it does to plan.”

What’s my plan?

First, when I feel anxiety creeping in, I do SOMEthing productive and tangible — cleaning a bathroom, getting on the elliptical, taking Codie for a walk, calling a friend.  Then I make sure my calendar has a pre-planned activity each day — this, alongside exercise, Bible reading, the occasional book club, the strategic getaway – and usually depression/anxiety is held at bay .

When someone asks, “What do you do all day?”  I can say, “I’m enjoying my one an only life!”

Today’s Takeaway –

-Depression is sneaky.  And it’s the last thing you expect during this long awaited time of freedom from traditional work.  Don’t be surprised by its appearance.

– Seek help if needed.  You are not alone.

-Codie thinks that you should definitely get a pet – preferably, a golden retriever.  Codie is a therapist on the side.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

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Having “WOW” Eyes — Developing a Gratitude Habit

Arfa Syed was pregnant with her first child and trying to find the strength to leave an abusive marriage.  She writes in Guidepost Magazine, “Life as I knew it was falling apart.”

Then she received the “sweetest gift”.

It was a journal with the word, Gratitude, on the front.  What on earth could she be grateful for during this time of acute stress?

She stretched her mind and came up with what seemed minute happenings in her daily life.  A neighbor giving her a recipe.  A random woman picking up her glove and handing it to her.

Over time Ms. Syed developed a daily practice of writing down what she was grateful for.  During difficult times, she journaled twice a day to remind herself of the good in the world.

In her article, How to Make Gratitude a Lifestyle she shares 3 additional tips to develop such a routine.

We should be present – remembering that time is precious.

We should reframe our view of obstacles – remembering that through them we develop resilience.

And this one I just love –  Ms. Syed says,  We should remember to be wowed.

“After “mamma,” my daughter’s next word was “wow!” I spend a lot of time looking at the world through her eyes—new and fresh and certainly appreciative of little wonders. One afternoon, I was rushing into the house, carrying her, when she started kicking her legs, wanting me to stop—she saw a squirrel on the tree and wanted to sit and watch it eat a nut. So, I stopped and we sat there and watched. I couldn’t help but notice the delicate green leaves on the tree branches, how delightfully the squirrel was eating and how great it was to pause and enjoy that with my daughter. What a reminder that I’m surrounded by beauty. Now, I pay attention to the beautiful river I pass on my way to work and the small joys of being a mom. Through my daughter, God shows me that even my mundane mommy routines can be wondrous.”

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This is surely a WOW life!  As I write, Codie’s tail is thumping on the hardwood floor; an orchid on the table next to me is boasting pink and purple charm; and a robin is pecking diligently on the grass outside.

Ms. Syed’s piece ends with a quote, “Happiness does not bring gratitude.  Gratitude brings happiness.”

So instead of listing our aches and pains, let’s pick up a journal and list our blessings.  Then let’s stare at a squirrel and say to ourselves, WOW!

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Today’s Takeaway –

-Where’s your WOW right now?

-Take after Codie whose WOWs are found in napping, retrieving socks  from the laundry bin, placing tennis balls in strategic places around the house so there’s always quick access, sprawling on a kingsize bed, greeting all strangers as possible best friends.

 

Enjoy the Ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

If you need more structure to your journaling, here’re some templates to get started.  And of course there are apps for that as well.

 

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