When Lobster Tastes Like Soap: Don’t Get Attached to your Stuff!

Financial guru, Dave Ramsey, says, “There’s nothing wrong with making money or with spending it on some cool stuff for yourself.”

But he adds,  “If you eat enough lobster, it starts to taste like soap. Having stuff will never satisfy you.”

We know he’s right, right?  We have all experienced that titillating rush after a new purchase — a piece of furniture, an outfit.  But how quickly that rush dissipates..  The furniture collects dust; the outfit goes out of style.

It’s all about balance. Ramsey reminds us that the Bible is often misquoted to say that “Money is the root of all evil.”  What it actually says is, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”

In and of itself, money or that new outfit is amoral. Neither good or bad.  (That said, have you tried Stitch Fix??)  It’s when the pursuit of money and the accumulation of stuff becomes our paramount focus, that  we are destined for unhappiness. Stuff does not satisfy and money is never enough. Our lobster tastes like soap.

Ramsey says that the goal of attaining wealth is so we can be generous. And he’s right. Sure, opening that Stitch Fix box is fun, but it can’t begin to compete with anonymous giving, or reaching out to a sick friend,  extending a sincere compliment, or writing a note of encouragement.

That is the currency of heaven.  Lobster dipped in butter.

 

Today’s Takeaway

– Generosity is your lobster!

-Having said that, check out Stitch Fix!

 

And enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

De-Friending Procrastination

Hello, Retiree.   My Name is Procrastination.  We can be great friends.

We both know what you SHOULD be doing right now.

Emails.  Laundry.  Meditation. Jogging. Bill paying.  Bible reading. Writing. Facing clutter that would make Marie Kondo blush.

Your dog sits at the front door with a leash in her mouth.  And that yoga mat and weights aren’t going to get off the shelf on their own accord.

All I have to do is turn your gaze to Facebook, chocolate, another cup of coffee, the news.  You need to be informed, right?  Perhaps your IRA needs tending.

Did an hour just slip by?   Your dog sighs and returns to bed.

—————————–

In the absence of traditional work, retirees need strategies for sticking to daily disciplines, de-friending procrastination, and making first things first.

James Clear has written extensively on how to form good habits.  He recommends we incorporate the “Seinfeld Strategy” described as follows —

“Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. Isaac caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”

Here’s how Isaac described the interaction with Seinfeld…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.

It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”

And that’s one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld’s remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on “not breaking the chain.”


 

Clear and Seinfeld are right.  The secret is the “every day” part.  Putting that X in the calendar square and not breaking the chain.

Want to incorporate a morning time of meditation and prayer?

Want to have a more grateful heart?

Want to get rid of those “hi Jane” arms?

Start building that chain today.  And say good-bye to Procrastination!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t worry if you skip a day. Just don’t skip two if at all possible.  Good habits have a way of evaporating.  And then Procrastination comes knocking at your door!

-Don’t feel badly about dating Procrastination -who is awfully cute and entirely familiar.  This post is late in coming because I have been VERY busy — spending time with Hannah, the controversial bachelorette.  🙂

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failing Better: Learning and Growing

Back in my 20s I held 7 different jobs in 11 years.  That meant 7 “first days” — finding the coffee machine,  meeting colleagues, imprinting names while shaking hands, signing forms, training, ever smiling, trying not to walk into a wall or closet.

One first day stands out.  I had to enter the trading room of Dean Witter, not only late, but also  wearing a large white bandage on my chin, having tripped while jogging along Chicago’s lakefront at 5AM that morning, certain that I was outrunning a mad rapist, which was actually a puzzled squirrel — it was a bloody affair necessitating a trip to the ER to get stitches.

Then there was a new job where I apparently slipped through the cracks of Human Resources.  I had been hired by a regional manager in Chicago and I thought it would be important to visit the NY office to meet the traders.  After my visit, I returned to Chicago where the manager who had hired me was no longer an employee.  And when I called the NY office to chat with my new trader-friends, those whose hands I had just shook were gone as well.  It gradually dawned on me that they had forgotten to fire me.  Paycheck or not, it was time to quit.

I hated first days and new jobs.

But I also knew that if I didn’t take risks, face challenges, I’d never find fulfilling work.  I would remain in my first role — not even a secretary, a secretary to a secretary.  (I took a mean short-hand, by the way – a skill set I am quite proud of!)

There is such a thing as good stress in which you stretch yourself.  You put on a brave face and take on uncomfortable challenges where you can learn and grow — even if you wind up being forgotten, fired, or embarrassed.

Failures are harsh but instructive.

The Swiss tennis player, Stan Wawrinka, has a tattoo on his left forearm that inspires him to take risks and learn from  life’s  failures.  It’s  a Samuel Beckett quote  that reads –

 

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

 

 

 

 

That saying, Fail Better, speaks volumes.  It reminds us retired folks that life still entails learning and growing. IF – and it’s a big IF – we take risks.

Volunteering.  Socializing. Reading. Calling friends and family. Writing notes.  Trying recipes.  Taking classes.  Traveling.   Even finding new work at Jewel, Starbucks, the Library (surely, SOMEone wants us?!).

 

So when failure slaps you in the face, remember Stan Wawrinka, and say, No Matter!  Fail again!  Fail Better!

 

You don’t have to get a tattoo, however…

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Stress can indeed be good, if it propels you to take a risk.

-Hey, maybe a tattoo is in your future… no judgement here!!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

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