Beware of Nostalgia; Live in the Present!

Remember that 1950s show, THIS is your Life?  The unsuspecting guest would come face to face with family and friends who had affected his life — a 2nd grade teacher, a long lost relative, a friend from summer camp, an army buddy.

I am in the process of decluttering our basement – where thousands of photographs overflow from shoeboxes.  These are the pictures  that didn’t make the cut for an album, but would never have been tossed.

The problem is that there are at least 50 photos of one single moment in time- Kacie as a puppy stuck in the grass that’s higher than her head,  Jared as a toddler in diapers playing with a plastic T-ball set in our bedroom, Alex as a preteen holding her first tennis trophy from a round robin with her grandfather.

As I pull each shoebox off a shelf, I  hear the voice of decluttering expert, Marie Kondo, Keep what gives you joy.  

OK, Marie, I will pare down 50 photos of puppy Kacie to 5.

What Marie didn’t warn me about though, was that a wave of nostalgia would soon wash over me.

Oh to go back to those summer afternoons  – with the turquoise plastic pool filled with water, our first dog, Jessie, rolling in the dirt, Alex giggling, Jared on the swing set.  Making sandcastles.   Playing tag.  Running the bases.

Graduations, birthdays, vacations, sports teams.

Halloweens, Christmas trees, visits to Florida to see grandparents.  That August afternoon on Lake Michigan when Brett and I got married.

 

Each shoebox triggers deepening nostalgia.

For there are no children giggling upstairs, no driving in the car listening to Barney songs, and definitely no wedding songs to ponder.

Kids have graduated and left.  Dogs haven’t lived long enough.  And trophies are not given out anymore.

So with apologies to Marie Kondo, I return each shoebox back to its shelf – lest  this nostalgia slip into depression.

 

Time for a walk with Codie.

 

Because all I have is NOW.  And those Marcell Christmas cards that boast of endless joy, are liars;   life has always had its struggles, not suitable for Nikon’s close-up lens.  Shoeboxes, unchecked, can lead our hearts toward sentimentality and romanticism.

 

Historian Stephanie Coontz wrote a NY Times op-ed called Beware of Social Nostalgia.  She says that “homesickness”, as nostalgia used to be called, at best, is a harmless self-deception that can  lead us to reignite relationships that have ceased being close.

But nostalgia is also dangerous.  It amplifies the good and minimizes the bad; it  paints an idyllic vision of days gone by that robs us of optimism for the future – a future which cannot compete with such a one-dimensional view of the past.

Memories, like witnesses, do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to cross-examine them, recognizing and accepting the inconsistencies and gaps in those that make us proud and happy as well as those that cause us pain.”

Nostalgia can distort our understanding of the world in dangerous ways, making us needlessly negative about our current situation.”

 

So I have a new plan with regard to the basement storehouse of idyllic memories.   Let the next generation deal with them.

For THIS is my life.  Present tense.  Present moment.

 

And the present is a gift.  Which no shoebox can take away.

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-When you feel nostalgia trigger sadness, cross-examine it.  And then tell your distorted memory to take a hike and your present self to take a walk- preferably with a dog,

-Be more dog-like.  Life for dogs  is always in the NOW.  And joy awaits with each meal, each time a leash is reached for, each new person to greet.

 

Enjoy the ride!  Present tense!

xox

Barclay and Joy

What day is it again? The DO’s and DON’Ts of a Happy Retirement

Sandy received a wall clock as a retirement gift.  This clock doesn’t tell time. however; it reminds Sandy what day it is!

You non-retired folks are thinking,   So, let me get this straight…. your big stressor is remembering the day??  Do you know how lucky you are???   You don’t have meetings, quotas, due dates, alarms  jarring you awake, business trips to places you don’t want to go, airport fast food, 5AM Ubers,  middle of the night terror over a sale not executed, an evaluation gone awry,  imminent termination.

So retirement is indeed none of those things.  And we know we ARE fortunate.

But, retirement has its own set of pitfalls.  Did you know that depression is a widespread occurrence among retirees?  The American Psychological Association tells us that those who have not paid attention to  their “psychological portfolio” alongside their financial one, can succumb to social isolation, identity loss, and even suicide.

So now that Joy and I are well past the retirement-euphoria stage, we would like to share some tips to keeping that psychological portfolio performing optimally.

DO find balance between “work” and play. 

When my dad retired from being an airline captain, he found “work” in talking on his ham radio, connecting with like-minded devotees across the globe, practicing morse code, and sharing weather movements. This gave him “appointments” to adhere to and human connections beyond that of the tennis court.

DON’t succumb to an empty calendar. 

Plan activities.  Find that volunteer role that makes you smile.  My friend’s husband, newly retired, teaches 3-year olds ice hockey.  Emily reports that when Dave returns home, he is all smiles.

DO maintain your social interactions. 

Introverts may need a push out the door to make this happen.  Most churches offer small groups that meet regularly around a common focus.  Sally goes twice a week to Faith and Fitness.  They walk/jog in place while gabbing about their families and prayer requests.  Michelle takes her berne-doodle, Beatrice, to a neighborhood dog park – at the same time each day – where she and Bee have made easy friendships.

DON’T answer Netflix every time it calls.

Pick up a book instead.  Or better yet, take a trip to your local library.  Get out of your space.

DO tend to your diet and exercise routine.

Just don’t get obsessive or self-damning when you fall short.  Find a friend to do a 30-day challenge with you.  Those Hi-Jane arms of ours are not getting any firmer! We want them to be more like Michelle Obama arms!!

DON’T talk about aches and pains.

No one wants details about your colonoscopy – as fascinating as it may be! And by all means, do NOT share those photographs! There’s plenty of time in your 80’s to talk about your medical procedures!!  We’re far too young to focus on this now!

DO exercise your brain. 

Learn a new vocabulary word.  Do your crosswords.  Memorize Bible verses.  Start or join a book club.  My brother, Charles, reads a dictionary page each day.  My dad memorized the US presidents.

DON’T feel like you have to finish every book you start.

If it doesn’t grab you, give yourself permission to  put it down and find something that does.  Time is short!

DO encourage others.

Diane finds purpose each day in “being available”.  She is open to random conversations and encounters where her open smile can bring joy to others.  She listens to God who provides marching orders.

DON’T frown too much. 

We may lose our ability to smile.  I have zero research to back this up — only the observational evidence of Baby Boomers whose attempts at smiling look pained. Smiling takes practice.  Don’t let your smile get sloppy.

 

And finally…

DO remember what day it is!

Non-retirees may slap you if you say something like, Every day is a Saturday!! And they would have every right to do so!  🙂

 

Today’s Takeaway:

-How is your psychological portfolio doing?  If you are having trouble finding your purpose, then adopt Diane’s simple philosophy and just Be Available.  That is enough!

– You are NOT alone!  Find your people.  They may be knitting as we speak.  Or talking on a ham radio.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

Feeling Stuck? Clean a Toilet!

Sometimes we feel stuck.

This can be particularly true in retirement, when our 9 to 5 work, with its built-in sense of purpose, is behind us.

We may wake up and wonder, “What is my purpose today?”

Yoga classes and lunch dates do not a purpose-filled life make.  And that to-do list may vacillate between over busy-ness that has us frazzled and boredom that has us opening the refrigerator door way too often.

How to get unstuck?

The self-help books have many good and practical suggestions.

But what if we are too overwhelmed to make a gratitude list, or take a walk, or even say a prayer?

Look no farther than the bathroom.  There lies a toilet.

The seemingly insignificant act of cleaning a toilet can offer a sense of accomplishment, albeit small.  And this toilet-time may just propel us to do a push-up, make a phone call, or name something we are grateful for.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, advocates starting small – doing something eminently doable that guarantees success and evokes healthy habits.  He tells the story of one man who “resets his room” —

“When he finishes watching television, he places the remote back on the TV stand, arranges the pillows on the couch, and folds the blanket. When he leaves his car, he throws any trash away. Whenever he takes a shower, he wipes down the toilet while the shower is warming up.

This might sound like he’s just “cleaning up” but there is a key insight that makes his approach different. The purpose of resetting each room is not simply to clean up after the last action, but to prepare for the next action.”


 

So, feeling stuck?  Unmotivated?  Overwhelmed?  Start small.  Grab that clorox and clean a toilet.

This may not be the day you write a novel, complete a marathon, or even vacuum up the dog hair that’s rolling like sage brush across your rugs – but hey, you will will have a clean toilet!  And that’s something!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Think small.  And do SOMEthing.   Don’t answer the refrigerator when it beckons you.

-Play loud, joy-filled music during your toilet-time.  Why not?

-Codie is chiding me now.  Get off your butt and take me for a walk.  She is right.  And Codie never feels stuck!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Screen Shot 2019-05-07 at 1.19.26 PM

Music is Chicken Soup for the Soul

Plato must have known a thing or two. The quote above resonates today and will as long as there is music to be played. Not bad for a philosopher who died in 347 B.C.  I wonder if anything I’ve said will be remembered long after I’m gone!

My memory of music in my home goes way back to my dad listening to cantorial records , as well as Herb Albert’s Tijuana Brass (Whipped Cream, my favorite cover of his!) in the living room piped out of a human size speaker and hi-fi equipment.  My children will read this and go, what’s a hi-fi?!!

Much has been written about music having the ability to move us, emit emotions, joy, sadness.  It crosses boundaries, it doesn’t require words  nor pictures. You feel it in your core, your bones, your heart.

Stanford University Study  shows that music helps us make sense of a chaotic world and soothes our senses.

This is meant for one of my very dearest friends (no names mentioned) who is suffering through a very difficult period of time in her family’s life.  It struck me that my love for music might resonate with her. We all go through grief in different ways and how we deal with it is very unique to our own individual personalities. People feel all kinds of emotions during the course of a day, a week, a month. No one is happy all the time, or despondent all the time. Music is almost an emotion in itself. I see music as an escape for a minute or two. It can be for however long you desire. I used to lie in the dark in my living room and play records (mostly show tunes that I knew every word to!)

Music has been called a way of life for certain human beings. Some of us have musical talent and others don’t, ( I played the violin in the school band only because there were no more flute parts! First chair was never going to happen!) but those who do can share their emotions through  expression. The way music effects our everyday lives can be almost incomprehensible at times.

One time in particular stood out to me when I thought of examples of what impact music can make on our lives. The concert held in New York for the September 11, 2001 tragedy, in a sense, brought our country together. So many famous musicians wrote songs dedicated to the tragedy. Through music people were able to express their feelings easily in a peaceful, yet effective way. It wasn’t for money or publicity, it was simply for a good cause. Also, it was one of the best ways to prove that our country can come together in a time of crisis. The concert helped people who were grieving and even touched those who were not directly involved with the attack. Not only did it bring New York City together, but also it brought our entire nation together as one.

The same was done for World Aid’s Day and Coca Cola used it beautifully in its ‘ I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing- several variations on this iconic commercial, which was created in the early 1970’s. Now, try to get this tune out of your head!~!!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway…

. Hum a few bars of a melody that you hold dear, roll down the windows of your car and sing, or resort to the proverbial shower aria!

. It’s always available to you and it will put a smile on your face, I promise.  A lot fewer calories than eating a bag full of Oreos!

Enjoy the Ride

xox Barclay & Joy

Forget the Treadmill – Take a Bubble Bath!

You’ve heard that exercise alleviates depression.  Well, it turns out that taking a hot bath works even better!

A new study found that taking a hot bath twice a week can significantly lift your mood – more so than exercise. It has to do with altering the body’s temperature and circadian rhythm. Plus a hot bath is more appealing for some folks than an arduous sweat-filled workout. (Acupuncture, massages, and hot showers by the way also release endorphins – as does laughter!  So maybe laughing your head off while soaking in a hot bath might be the medicine for chasing away the blues!)

You can also read in the tub and thereby escape the grasp of that incessant cell phone.  No cable news. No email. No political ads. Just you in sudsy bliss in the company of a great book.

And speaking of books, C.S. Lewis famously said, “We read to know we are not alone.”    Reading is an additional antidote for depression whose best friend is isolation.

What are Joy and I reading these days, you ask?

We highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s light reading and it makes you smile, even chuckle. It’s on Reese Witherspoon’s list and may soon be a movie. That gives us the opportunity to envision who might play the characters we have come to know. It’s an account of growth and courage;  reinforcement that we are not alone. Reading a book such as this is like being invited into someone’s home you don’t know and hiding behind the curtains as they tell their story.

A word about book clubs… I (Joy) am finding that if I have to convince myself to read the book, perhaps I should come up with my own selection! On the other hand, book clubs force us to read something outside our usual genre.  If it’s a good discussion group, maybe a probing question or two might be raised and debated.

 

So run that bath, grab a book, pour a glass of vino, light a candle. Bubbles add another dimension to the overall experience.  Now that we know the heat of the bath is key, make sure it’s hot before you get in.  I hate tepid anything!  Turn on music.  Music soothes the soul and it puts us in the mood to relax. Think of it as water therapy.    Close your eyes and indulge.

Who had time for a bath pre retirement?!!

And in the immortal words of L’Oreal, “You’re worth it!”

Today’s Takeaway…

. Be open to exploring new ways to relieve stress, anxiety, depression. If all it takes is a dunk in a hot tub and the world’s problems melt away, why not?  What’s the worst that can happen?  Shriveled toes and fingers! No prescription needed!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Check out The Great American Read for more bathtub books!

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 7.52.34 AM.png

The Empty Nest – A Syndrome or a Celebration

I knew if I blinked the tears would fall.  So I widened my eyes and briskly hugged Alex, turning quickly so she wouldn’t see me cry.  She walked resolutely across the park-like Denison campus, keeping stride with a freshman roommate who had confessed to being ADHD and a slob within the first 5 minutes of meeting her.

I cried most of the 7-hour drive home.

With Alex gone, our nest was officially empty.  Wasn’t it just moments ago my daughter was a cheery toddler belly flopping on her bed, shoving a Goodnight Moon board book my way while arranging Bunny and Bankie alongside Chelios the dog (not too close as they didn’t get along)?  Wasn’t it just the other day 5-year old Jared was waving his Ninja Turtle numchucks in a carefully crafted routine – Brett and I applauding with appropriate seriousness?

I remember when our basement was loaded with Little Tykes molded plastic – that basketball net filled with sand at the bottom so it wouldn’t break in half from energetic dunking.  That Flintstone-like car that Alex beeped on her way to indoor destinations.

From now on our house would be uncluttered.  Laundry would be doable. Dinners would be simple.  And as for that crowded wall calendar we used to complain about – there would be no more games, practices, matches, recitals, or birthday parties.  No more visits to Chuckie Cheese or Great America  (thank goodness).   Its boxes would be stark.

This was the plan, right?  Parenting is about letting-go.  First to babyhood and bedtime stories and then all too soon – you’re handing over car keys taking them to see friends you don’t know about at events you’re not sure about.

For us clingers (we know who we are), the empty nest is bittersweet – even downright depressing. You’ve lost that motherly identity and day to day sense of purpose.

The Mayo Clinic  cites the Empty Nest Syndrome as the profound sadness some parents feel when their last child leaves home.  If left unchecked, it can lead to depression and anxiety, even alcoholism.

They offer the following suggestions to deal with this parenting inevitability.

  • Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.  (Easier said than done – says me not Mayo Clinic.)
  • Keep in touch. Maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts.  (Be prepared that they won’t answer you, says me not Mayo.)
  • Seek support.  Lean on loved ones for support. Share your feelings.(Not a  chance, says me, not Mayo).
  • Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests.  (OK, I’ll try, says me.)

 

Psychology Today adds, “Don’t expect to feel ‘excited’ per se at first. However, getting involved in new activities and interests will help accelerate your emotional adjustment.”

So whether you’re sad because of the empty nest or you’re distressed that your nest will NEVER be empty, the same game plan holds true–

-Practice self-care.  Meditation, yoga, walking, volunteering, reading, having drinks, coffee, a meal, anything with friends.

– Do NOT linger on Facebook images of perfect families, perfect lives!

-Stay curious. Plan trips. As hard as it is, tell your Comfort Zone to get lost.

-To the best of your ability, don’t seek out chocolate or cheesecake as solace.  Here’s a duh-thing from the NYTimes Smarter Living section  — giving in to food-temptations is oh so human.  Don’t beat yourself up. The trick is to NOT have the temptation within physical proximity.  If Ben and Jerry’s is in your freezer, then assume it will be in your mouth at 11pm.  Click the picture below for more.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 10.04.11 AM.png

 

I am trying to practice what I preach.  (I love my comfort zone.) Our nest has been empty for a while, though Codie and Kacie are staring me down right now, obviously insulted, “What about US???”.  When I start to romanticize those Little Tykes days, I vow to open my Gratitude Journal — this IS a time to celebrate!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Whether you have a full or empty nest, rejoice in the NOW.  It’s a gift from God.

-Also, remember that adage, “This too shall pass.”  Your Boomerang kids will eventually leave.  Make memories with whatever stage you’re in and KEEP BUSY!

 

Enjoy the Ride!  It’s the ride of your life!

xox

Barclay and Joy