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

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Dear Younger Me…

 

Barclay here…

 

Dear Younger Me,

I’ve been meaning to share a few thoughts with you.

#1 – Worry less; Pray more

All that time spent worrying did not change a thing except to make you live inside your head and not in the world.  When Jesus sighed, “Oh you of little faith,” I think he was referring to YOU.  Yes you.  So, have faith in your God and stop being a worry wort.  It will cause you wrinkles and we DON’t want that!

#2  – Vulnerability is OK

Someone with a cool name will become very famous speaking and writing about vulnerability.  (Unfortunately, this woman will not be you.)  But take her message to heart.  Remove your mask and share your struggles (appropriately of course….a job interview for example may not be the right setting.)  Be vulnerable and seek community.

#3 – Avoid Mom-Guilt 

You may feel guilty for being a working mom, a stay at home mom, a mom who just prays that she doesn’t mess up her kids.  Seek the path that’s right for you; stop comparing yourself to those oh-so-perfect moms.  They don’t exist.  Do your best and spend time on your knees in prayer.  (And accept the fact that you will do stuff that does indeed mess up your kids.)

#4 – Be braver

Take risks.  Someone named Joy will want to blog with you.  Someone named Gina will ask you to jump out of a plane.  Someone named Brett will take you on a glorious marriage adventure.  And those kids whom you will undoubtedly mess up — will both bless and break your heart.  They will seek their own adventures, apart from you.  Don’t let them see your tears…be happy for them.

#5 – Drink more water

You really should turn your wine into water.  Drinking water is good for you and your skin will thank you.  Coffee and wine do not hydration make.

#6 – Slow down; Meditate; Look for blessings 

Breathe deeply; Look for beauty; Make time for pausing and reflecting.

#7 – Make the first things, first things

Find opportunities for volunteering.  Give of your time and money and don’t tell anyone.  God sees it all.  And His opinion is the only one that counts in the end.  By the way, this will be the LAST thing you want to do.  You will have to force yourself.  But trust me,  you will be refreshed more that you will refresh others, which probably is very little!

#8 – Forgive quickly

Don’t hold onto resentment from your childhood.  Keep short accounts with God.  Know that YOU are in need of forgiveness!  And I mean, daily.

#9 – Cherish friendships

Listen more.  Laugh a ton.   Oh, and of course, get a doggie!!

#10 – Wear sunscreen

You knew I was going to say this!!  That tan isn’t worth it.  You will be a regular at the dermatologist if you don’t wear sunscreen.  And those tanning booths of the 1980s were a BAD idea!  Your mother was right.  Of course.

 

More to come, YM.  You are not off the hook!

 

 

 

Joy here…

Dear Younger Me:

I could totally echo my fellow blogger and dear friend Barclay on the worrying.  If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop the incessant worrying! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

It’s a complete and utter waste of time.  It never got you anywhere.  It didn’t make you feel better and it probably added a wrinkle and grey hair for each year you did it!!!

Listen up, YM,

Stop futurizing.  Another one of my very bad habits.  I once visited a house that friends of ours had bought in the early 80’s.  At the time, my husband and I were living in Chicago (where I would meet my dear dear friend Barclay).  I loved the Chicago suburbs and visualized a life there, in Winnetka or Highland Park or maybe Wilmette. White picket fence, Volvo station wagon, dog, 2 children…  I couldn’t get it out of my head and I drove my poor husband crazy talking about it incessantly!  Appreciate what you have in the here and now.  If it is meant to happen, it will, in time!  PATIENCE!!!!!

Listen up, YM,

Love your parents with all their faults and annoying habits!  You too will be a retiree one day (who knew?!!) and drive your children crazy with your habits! I loved mine with all my heart and being, but I truly thought they’d be around forever.  My mother, Muriel, passed away at 71 years old of diabetic complications. I never expected it and I was devastated.  She was my best friend and I would miss her so.

Listen up, YM,

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.  I was a good saver, but when I started making money, real money, I went a bit crazy.  I bought my husband a gold Rolex watch and myself a fur coat.  I loved material things, which there is nothing wrong with, but, at the end of the day, a few more shekels in the bank wouldn’t have hurt!  Possessions do not make you happy.  They are just things.

Listen up, YM,

Echo on the breathing and drinking water.  Hydrate, take a few moments every day to think, get in touch with your inner soul  I was always rushing around. I stopped exercising for about 10 years after I had children.  I couldn’t find the time.  REALLY?!!  C’mon YM, not a very good excuse!  Make the time for you, no matter what!  Every day.

Listen up, YM, 

Don’t go to bed without washing your face and brushing your teeth!  Keep good hygiene habits and they will pay off later in life. I have great skin, primarily good genes, but I tried to do this religiously and it has, indeed, paid off.  Good job YM!

EAT BROWNIES!  They’re delicious!  No rationale needed here!

Today’s Takeaway… 

If only we could write letters to our  younger selves.  It’s not too late because at this age we are younger than we will be next year and the year after and the year after that. Think about what you want to tell yourself today.

You are the recorder of your life, the director, the producer, the author, your harshest critic.  It’s never too late to write those letters, but remember to read them.  They don’t do you any good if they are sitting on your hard drive!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Loving Yourself – Kicking the comparison habit once and for all!

“Suzy is so attractive.” My mother would remark.

She would then offer helpful suggestions as to how I could be more like poised and perfect Suzy, which we both knew was impossible.  I was a late bloomer who wore a superfluous training bra until the age of 19.

But that didn’t stop me from trying to be like Suzy.

I went on diets featuring grapefruit and popcorn. I tried to get a tan using sun reflectors – which is why I am on a first name basis with my dermatologist.  I even took a Dale Carnegie course to help me “win friends and influence people.”

I also became a comparison junkie.

My current Suzy’s include those who pray out loud more eloquently than I (even though I know God doesn’t care about such matters), those who have a better backhand, those who are more extroverted, better read, friendlier, funnier, braver, better at Suduko.  Etc etc.

Such wasted energy!  It’s time to get my mother’s voice out of my head.  I will never be Suzy and nor should I be.

Psychology Today offers some helpful suggestions to help us drop the comparison habit.

-Know what our triggers are and avoid them.  For instance, we may choose not to read  People magazine or watch Entertainment Tonight, or gaze at Facebook’s vacation  photos.

-Remind ourselves that what we see on the outside may not match what is really happening in people’s lives.  All of us like to project images suitable for social media.

-Use the comparison trap as motivation to improve on what is truly important.  Do we want to be as kind as Marguerite?  As generous as Donna?  As humble as Brett?  Look for those who are honest, fun, giving and emulate the qualities we admire.

The author,  Dr. Susan Biali Haas, ends the article with this —

“Imagine if you could elevate the comparison game to a useful art form. Stop falling prey to its dark underbelly, which does little more than increase feelings of misery and lack in your life. Use comparison, instead, to become a better person and maybe even make your little corner of the world a better place. ”

Great advice, I’d say.  For ALL we have is our little corner.  And the  responsibility to make it better — one constructive comparison at a time.  I may not be as attractive as that Suzy, but I can work on being more generous, kind, and loving.  To try to be better today than I was yesterday.  The only comparison that matters.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Limit your scrolling through social media, especially if it tends to  trigger that comparison junkie in you.

-Take a walk instead.  Make a gratitude list.  Tidy up your corner.

 

And enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I need 12 pairs of jeans? A Decluttered Life is a Happier Life

Well, there’s the calf length jeans, the ankle pair, the boot legs, the ones with the tears at the knees (so current).  There’s the skinny jeans and the ones you wear when you’re snuggled on the sofa watching the 2 hour Bachelor finale.  Not to mention black jeans, washed jeans, and jeans with different waists.  (Mom jeans are coming back for sure…remember, even Barack was caught wearing them!)

Seriously, though, if your closet is overflowing with work clothes you won’t ever wear again, bikinis that you have no business  wearing, and jackets that were cute in 1975 but STILL have not returned to the runway, then your closet is not adding to your happiness.  It may even be robbing you of joy.

Decluttering expert Kathi Lipp says, “Clutter is a part of life, but when clutter stops your life, that’s when you need to make some changes.”

Ms. Lipp says that clutter is a “physical manifestation of overwhelm in our lives.” And the the root of clutter, she adds, can be traced to fear, guilt, and shame.

Fear What if I need this some day?  GuiltThis was a gift from my mother; how can I discard it?  ShameI spent money on this item and I shouldn’t have and so I will keep it for the rest of my life.  

She cites a fascinating statistic.  In the U.S. there are more storage units than there are McDonalds and Starbucks.  We are drowning in STUFF.  Think of what we Baby Boomers are leaving for our adult children to sort through??  (I rather doubt that Alex will want my comfy jeans…)

 

A few caveats though…

Stuff is not inherently bad.

And a lot depends on your season of life.  With little kids afoot, your house is taken over by Little Tykes toys.  As it should be.

But we Baby Boomers are in a season of paring down.  We know all too well we won’t be taking a darn thing with us at the end of the day.  And in the words of decluttering phenom, Marie Kondo, we should retain only that which sparks JOY.

So even though I’m certain mom jeans will be coming back to fashion (as attested by Barack Obama), I can say thank you and farewell to at least 9 pairs of jeans, leaving me the 3 that spark joy.

Ms. Kondo suggests that we start decluttering with our closets, taking EVERYTHING we own and tossing it ALL on a bed, in full view, where we can begin sorting.

If we are uncertain about a particular item, Ms. Lipp suggests we ask three questions.

 

Do I love it?    Do I use it?    Would I buy it again?

We love our jackets.  But we wear only 3 out of 10.  So bye-bye to padded shoulders and fringy leather.  If we haven’t taken up motorcycling by now, it likely won’t be happening.  And as for disco, it had its 15 minutes of fame.

 

Ms. Lipp’s website has a plan for decluttering FAST.

And Ms. Kondo offers a method that WORKS.  Here is a summary from Good Housekeeping.

6 Principles —

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy.

And five categories to tackle in order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

 

 

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So,  don those comfy jeans, curl up on your couch, ignore the time-sucking Bachelor, and binge watch Marie Kondo’s viral Netflix show.  Joy awaits.

 

 

And speaking of Joy, my co-blogger will be continuing this topic for Wednesday.   Stay tuned!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t forget to thank your stuff on its way out.  Those ribbed turtlenecks served you well.

-Do a little bit each day.  Decluttering is a way of life. Savor the process.

 

Enjoy the ride!   And get rid of the storage unit!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

The Last Laps: Living up to your Legacy

A well known Chicago businessman just passed away.  He was notable enough to be mentioned on the PBS show, Chicago Tonight.  Harrison Steans had been the longtime chairman of LaSalle National Bank, but his obituary and on-air news segment said that Mr. Steans had also been known for giving back.  He was on numerous boards and had the reputation of being an influential philanthropist.  He left a positive mark on his world.

I have no connection with the Steans family (other than the fact that my very first job was being the secretary to a secretary at LaSalle Bank – earning a whopping $12,000 a year.  My father told me and I quote, “If you become a secretary, you can marry the boss.”  He had high ambitions for his daughter,)  What stands out to me, however, in this death notice is the emphasis on giving-back, over and above the business acumen of Mr. Steans.  I imagine that his family may be prouder of this fact than any other.

 

What will our obituary read?

What do we want to be remembered for?

What is our legacy?

 

It sounds a tad morbid.  But thinking about such things may propel us to use our time more wisely.  Calling that friend, that daughter, that mother in law –  in lieu of catching up with Colton’s exploits on this season of the Bachelor.  Tutoring that student, visiting that nursing home, working that soup kitchen, writing that note of encouragement, smiling at that husband.

Marelisa Fabrega is a blogger who says that writing your obituary can be a wake=up call.   She tells the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.  Mr. Nobel was reading the paper one morning and saw his own obituary, “The merchant of death has died.”   It went on to say that Nobel had caused more people to die faster than anyone else.

The paper’s mistake (it was actually Nobel’s brother who had passed) caused Alfred Nobel to rethink his legacy.  He became a humanitarian who went on to found the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he became famous.

 

Back to us.  We may be approaching our last laps, but hey, we’re still breathing!

So let’s write a dream-obituary and then take steps to live up to it.

May it be said of you and me,

_____________, beloved friend, beloved __________, was known for giving back.  

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-What can we do this very day to make someone else smile?

-What does giving-back look like for you?

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy