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Is There A Right Way To “R”etire?

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My “R” word. Retirement.

There. I said it.

For me, saying Retirement is akin to verbalizing “Voldemort”, you know, Harry Potter’s deadly nemesis… “he whose name shall not be spoken“.

Shits and giggles.

Last night, I “worked” again after 6 months time away.

Bartending.

Pouring Pinot Gris, popping Budweisers, mixing Lamb’s Navy Rum with Coke, concocting a pretty Caesar.

Paid work.

It was fun to be back in the alcoholic saddle once more.

Now technically, I’ve been retired for almost 4 years (how did that time go by?).

But really, gosh darn it, I’m not even close to being retired. I’ve rejigged and rebranded, but retired? Nope. I’ll delve into this a bit further on.

Most people I meet in my age category are either retired or thinking about pulling the plug soon’ish.

I love it when I come across a 70 or even 80 year-old who still gets up most days and journeys off to an office or whatever, where they continue plying their trade, working their knowledge and experience because they love and need that stimulation and enjoyment.

Retirement, Schretirement.

Hallelujah for them.

working 80 year old

I suppose that each of us at some point searches within, finding what retirement could mean in our own life.

Used to be that folks worked til 65 and then collapsed on a couch or a rocking chair and died a year or two later on. Now, not so much…

  • For some, the retirement ideal means a day filled with nothingness.
  • Others retire to a life of leisure and play.
  • For yet others, retiring is quitting the 9-5 aspect of work, but then taking on consulting work in their same field, scaling back the time input but not changing the focus of their efforts.
  • Some folks parlay a fun hobby or treasured interest into a new career more enjoyable than their lifelong vocation.
  • There are the ones like Linda at my gym who take a scattershot approach to each day; a hybrid blend of various pet interests, paid work, and volunteerism. Linda divides her days into about 4 or 5 segments where she exercises (gym, curling, golf), volunteers at the school, reads a library book, takes a yoga class, attends a local lecture in the evening.
  • And sadly, for some, the thought of retirement is an unattainable dream, at least along the lines of what marketing dreamcatchers would have us buy into. Either a lack of savings, or employment income that rarely soared above a minimum wage, leaves a gaping hole of cashlessness where a monthly cheque of passive income (dividends, company pension, dividends) would be desirable.

You may know that I have a few pet peeves… things like the totally subjective (might I say “fake”!) meaning of words like moderation, or middle class, or retirement.

When we say these words, every person has a different version of just what that means. You know, potato, potahto.

Example? I’m running in a half marathon race in two weeks. At this stage of my training, a 15k run is a moderate run distance. In your world, a 5k walk may be crazy big, or… if you’re crazy (in my mind) perhaps a 42.2 k run is your everyday. Moderate? Who knows… Same goes for retirement.

Moderation?…….         or ……        Moderation??

My personal definition of retirement means deciding what each day will look like because I have the freedom to chart my course. The point of leaving work isn’t so that I’ll will never earn money again because that’s somehow bad. The point of it all is to have control over my time. TIME, more valuable than BITCOIN or Gold.

I work most days but it’s a rare day when someone pays me to do something. There’s a different feeling, a different philosophy and approach to work when there’s a $$ figure attached.

I liked my job as a medical lab tech/database miner and reporter but I didn’t love it. Or at least I didn’t love it after doing it for 30+ years.

I enjoyed the people I worked alongside, but the work itself? Well, it lost its luster and uniqueness and excitement years ago. The adrenaline rush I would get when called in at 2 am to do blood tests and crossmatches on car crash victims had long passed.

I suffer from boredom anxiety. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I need newness and creative expression. I need to be doing something different on a regular basis. That’s just me.

My “retirement” story is a lot like Linda’s, above. I exercise daily. I cook and play guitar. I garden and tutor English. I chop vegetables at the soup kitchen, I read and write blog posts. I savour warm sunny days and feed the chickens. I puff a cigar from time to time and renovate bedrooms. I bartend.

The retirement story we’ve been hearing about in our society is still relatively new.

People haven’t been retiring in droves for much more than a century now, but that’s still plenty old in terms of our personal memories.

Our memories have strong mental pictures and associations with retirement that mostly have to do with people in their later years. People with lots of gray hair. Grandparents, elderly neighbours, aging parents. Those are the stories we know, so those are the stories we attach to retirement.

But, powerful as these stories may be, they don’t dictate what retirement is, or what retirement could be. Those stories are changing, and dramatically, for those who retire younger and healthier.

When your day comes, or if it has already come, you’ll need to decide what your retirement story will be. It’s your book, your story.

There’s no “r”ight way, no wrong way…

There are so many possible visions and choices… like playing some gentle music in a care home for the elderly…

I decided it would be a great retirement “gig” to play my guitar occasionally at seniors’ homes.

So first, I went online, looked up and practiced playing some of my parents’ and grandparents’ old tunes. 

Then, I was able to get myself hired by a Penticton nursing home to sing for patients by their bedsides.

After serenading one cute, bedridden older lady for a little while,  I got up to leave and said, “I hope you get better soon.”

She smiled sweetly at me and replied, “I hope you get better too.”

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Picture Yourself as a Toll Booth…

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Bob and Millie Frazier are average young New Yorkers who attended a party in the country last night and on the way home took a detour.

Most of us on waking in the morning know exactly where we are; the rooster or the alarm clock brings us out of sleep into the familiar sights, sounds, aromas of home and the comfort of a routine day ahead.

Not so with our young friends.

This will be a day like none they’ve ever spent – and they’ll spend it in the Twilight Zone.”

 

……………..

Murdering your chosen career is traumatic. A smudged chalky outline around your desk is all that remains of decades of your life.

Leaving the “routine” work world is a bit like entering the Twilight Zone… absent Rod Serling’s monotone voiceover.

Kissing goodbye to a regular bi-weekly magical monetary gift into your bank account takes some thought and planning.

Warren Buffett the great investor – in my Walter Mitty dream life, I’m a young Warren Buffett – says this about investing your money:

Rule No. 1: Never Lose Money.

Rule No. 2: Never Forget Rule No. 1

Buffett Uke

Sing those rules Warren…

I like RULES.

Warren has been my investing mentor for a lot of years now… I’m a slow learner so I’ve mislaid Rule #1 on more than one occasion, but even without a 12-step program I’m slowly getting better.

I’m a Number’s Nerd… a Statistical Sam… and so I spend a fair bit of time passing numbers through my head, batting them back and forth like tennis balls, sifting and sorting ideas on how to make a few dollah’s from smart investing…

The investing world is a challenge when you find yourself on the cliff’s edge of retirement (there’s that R word I hate!) and beyond.

The worry is like being perched in the starting blocks of the 100 m. Olympic race just before the gun goes “BAM!“.

You’re filled with child-like hope and anticipation of the exciting wonders that lie ahead while at the same time brooding intensely over whether if, as you’re nearing life’s finish line, you’ll be smiling Usain Bolt at the front of the field or sad Joe Blowitzky from Upper Slobovia jogging in at the back of the pack.

Investing and building an economic future is a lesson about ourselves… a lesson to be heeded and learned from, and skilfully tracked across into other areas of our lives.

Most of us spend year after year carefully – occasionally recklessly – placing the puzzle pieces of investment that fit together with our lives, measuring out the hunger to enjoy today’s fresh-faced moments with the hazy horizon of our future, more wrinkled, selves.

investment puzzle

Most of the time we make smart, disciplined decisions, but every now and then we just do something stupid.

Stupid like listening to our neighbour’s “hot tip” about that fabulous no-lose stock called BRE-X… or was it ENRON?… in my case was it YBM Magnex? Doesn’t matter, you get my point, right?

It’s often said that most marital difficulties are stirred up by financial discrepancies and arguments.

A woman I met once told me the secret answer to avoiding arguments with anyone.

If you want to stop an argument, just say the word ‘panties’,” she told me. “Everyone stops then. Men become frozen.

I’ve never actually tried this so I can’t tell you if it works but I know it made writing this next paragraph a more distracted challenge… so it obviously has some effect.

Maybe the same effect it had on the dumbstruck woman behind the counter at my bank yesterday when I told her that I wanted to deposit my Male Prostitution money into my “12-string guitar account”. Deer in the headlights.

But back to investing and building a future.

I have a few little mottos or themes that guide me in life… old standards like:

  • I live to eat, not eat to live
  • Ready. Shoot. Aim.
  • It’s better to travel hopefully, than to arrive
  • If it’s to be, it’s up to me
  • To you, I’m an atheist.
    To God, I’m the loyal opposition.

In my investment life, one of the major themes I’ve learned to love when I look at where I’ll put my money to work relates to the idea of a TOLL BOOTH. Easy $$ Cha-Ching…

Being an inherently lazy kind of guy, I want to make as much money as I can with the least amount of work. Shiftless Shekels. Lax Loot. Undemanding Dinero. Toll booth inert.

I’m actively seeking passive ways of collecting regular money like the GO corner on the Monopoly board of life.

So, for me, TOLL BOOTH investing is easily summed up in one word:

DIVIDENDS!

Without exception, every stock holding in my personal portfolio pays ME to be a Sleepy in Summerland owner.

Companies like APPLE and MICROSOFT and LBRANDS (Victoria’s Secret) and AFLAC and DISNEY and ROYAL BANK etc all pay me to go to bed at night and purr away while they stay awake making out cheques to send my way. Toll booth.

How about real estate? Do I own real estate beyond my own home? Sure. But do I ever get irritating phone calls at 2 am about broken water heaters, or tenants making noise or setting up illicit grow-ops? Nope. NEVER.

Owning Real Estate Investment Trusts like RIOCAN and H&R REIT means that I have managers working for me collecting rent cheques, cleaning dirty bathrooms and screening tenants. These are this lazy guy’s answer. Toll booth.

I just love Toll Booths where nice folks pay me to loll naked in my backyard hammock. Just try to get THAT image out of your head.

In the end, everyone seeks and discovers a monetary solution of sorts to their employment exodus (I still can’t use that R word)

There are joys and woes to using company pensions, government pensions, and your own personal guile in accumulating and investing a mini-armoury stockpile of wealth.

Nobody promises us that a life of ease will be easy.

Honestly, I’m still not sure if I’m in the Twilight Zone world of Usain Bolt or Joe Blowitzky in this race to the finish line.

But in the meantime, I think I’ll just lay back, close my eyes and count… shee… er… sweet dollar bills jumping over fences into my arms.

Sheep jumping.jpg

 

 

 

 

Looking for Mr. Goodbar-“tender”…

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bloodhound.jpg

Set loose the bloodhounds and investigative detectives… WOOF WOOF… ah-oooooOOO!

The search is on.

I “retired” two years ago this week from a job… a medical laboratory career that I lived for 37 years. That’s a bunch of 18-wheelers full of pus and poop and piss I tested folks.

I didn’t hate the job, nope. It was a good profession where I worked with people I liked a lot, but… I needed a new life vista in my front window, so…

I munched my way through a sweetly delicious “Bye Bye Pie Party” with my lab friends on my 57th birthday and walked out the door. Larry has left the building…

When I began in the lab in the 1970’s it was ridiculously considered a sort of girly job, a fairly low paying position that few men entered because they couldn’t meet those societal assumptions about supporting a wife and family on such low wages… kind of a “McJob”.

Of course I’d lived a real McJob life already.

For 4 and half years through high school and then college, I flipped burgers like a McDonalds All-Star… in fact, I did win pins and trophies as a McDonalds All-Star. I was a Big Mac-makin’ Bobby Orr… a Cheeseburger-slingin’ Usain Bolt!

I knew what a McJob looked and felt like. There is nothing wrong (other than bargain basement pay levels) with McJobs if you have the right attitude.

Lab technology didn’t feel like a McJob. It felt important and necessary and when I wasn’t accidentally trying to… OMG… kill unborn babies, it provided a decent but not extravagant livelihood thanks to progress made through numbers’ negotiation, both union-based and my own.

Proctologist

Where was I? Oh yeah… Retirement.

Did I say I recoil from the word retirement? I do.

It lost its meaning, its life, way back in the day my Dad retired as an oil company accountant in 1972.

He had been holding on by his fingernails for the day… the year when he finally turned 65 and walked out his office door so that he could live the “good life”.

He hated going to work each morning. It was like a daily stab in the heart when he walked out the door of our house on Rainbow Drive.

I never saw him smile more than that day he woke up for his morning cup of percolated Chock-Full-O’Nuts coffee and didn’t have to strap on his suit and tie costume and drive away in our pale green 1970 Ford Galaxie.

Retirement used to be the glorious, long-awaited, anxiously-anticipated end of a lifetime of striving and hard work and sacrifice. Enjoyment of the job wasn’t a particular requirement.

All the Don Drapers out there put in their 40 hours weekly for 45 years (minus the relaxed 2 week summer camping trip with screaming, whining kids).

Then magically one day they stopped cold turkey like a lifelong chain smoker who finds salvation and brushes away the smelly ashtray that was their mouth for decades.

Freedom 65.

Rocking chairs on front porches.

Beach sunsets and gluttonous Seniors’ buffets in Florida.

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Work was a nasty word they horked up and spit on the sidewalk like coughed-up phlegm. Yuck!

A month, a year, a couple of years later they silently inhaled one final breath and expired in their La-Z-Boys while watching the late news on TV. The good life.

The Story of a Life. The End.

Today, there are no doubt a scant few who still aspire to this retirement scenario of unrestricted leisure and endless sloth. Maybe you can tell me where to find them.

The retirees I’m seeing, the retirees I’m encountering on the streets and in restaurants and in running races I participate in… the retiree I’m becoming… are more like excited born-again Christians with new purpose and direction.

Sure, some find new part time jobs out of financial necessity, that bill-paying evil.

But so many of these boomers are leaving their careers, wandering out of the dark forest and exposing themselves to the wide open plains where sunshine and positive choices abound like jackrabbits emerging from their underground dens after the storm ends.

Most of the retired folks I come across are seeking out new vistas like me, new jobs and hobbies and interests that bring a profound sense of joy and verve to our lives… new sources of stimulation that set off little fireworks explosions in our heads (hopefully those aren’t strokes!)

I just want to get more competent at something. Almost anything.

I love the feeling of accomplishment. It’s another kind of orgasm. Much much tidier.

When I took a one week bartending course a year ago, I was searching a new side street, an alley that hopefully held some wonder and something unexpected. The occasional evening I spend pouring drinks for pay (and Male Prostitute tips!) now has expanded my life story.

It’s not a vocation. It’s a personal life expander.

In the past few weeks, I’ve begun spending one afternoon each week working on English language and coping skills with a small group of young Syrian refugees, helping them adapt to a dramatically new world order for them and their children.

From the outside, it looks like I’m doing them an altruistic favour.

I hope they benefit. I think they benefit.

I know I benefit. I know 2 or 3 words in Arabic. I share small jokes and smiles that cross a cultural divide in a world that doesn’t need more walls erected.

My world is expanding and improving little-by-little.

And that’s why I’m searching today.

I’m actively searching for new life expanders, new ideas, new directions.

Ideas that will transport me into new areas, dark caves I’ve not explored but where a tiny flashlight will illuminate a new creative direction in my world.

What my ‘purpose’ will be a month from now, a year from now, whenever, is a total mystery that I’m painting one brushed pixel at a time.

There is no real purpose.

It’s about making choices that invigorate and enthuse me.

And – aside from that other kind (nudge nudge wink wink) – what’s more fun than a “head” orgasm?

head orgasm

PS. One final but important point I want to impart? These new choices, ideas and caves where we invest our “retirement” energy should fall neatly into the realm of the notions described in Sarah Knight’s book: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

 

Screw Retirement…

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Here… would you like a cup of fragrant coffee, a steaming green tea, or one of my… ahem… superb lattes?

You might need one because I feel a “sermon from the mount” moment coming on…

Look out, here it comes …

IF you’re retired now … get out!

Hurry!!

Or… if … IF … you’re thinking of retiring… think again.

Lose the word retirement from your vocabulary. Just chuck it out the window of life’s fast-moving train. Clickety-clack… clickety-clack… gone.

Escape like super-stud Steve McQueen on a motorcycle jumping razor-sharp barbed-wire Nazi fences in The Great Escape.

mcqueen_motorcycle

Retirement is a crappy word and a shitty concept. Truly-retired people die. Fast.

A May 2013 report published by the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs found that retirement increased the chances of suffering from depression by 40%, while it increased the probability of having at least one diagnosed physical ailment by about 60%. That impact was assessed after controlling for the usual age-related conditions.

Now, I’m not telling you to stay or to leave your current job. Nope. Not at all.

As a matter of fact, if you truly love what you’re doing in your work – if you feel a glow of enthusiasm about what you do (almost) every day when you awake that doesn’t relate to morning nooky  – then please DON’T move on because the world has told you that’s the thing to do… stuff like, “you should just relax, you’ve earned it“… “you’re 65 and should retire” … “you should make room for younger folks to have opportunities“.

Nonsense. Don’t let yourself be should upon.

But really… REALLY!! My message here is don’t quit life. Move on to a new world but don’t retire. Re-invent and renew.

Never retire.

I love the La-Z-Boy as much as the next guy, but let’s make it a restorative tonic to clear our heads on our way to the starry constellation of our passions.

Never stop learning and pushing to grow. Never stop finding new experience in your days.

Die soon list

The SIX FEET UNDER Club List …

A half dozen years ago my friend Jennifer gave me a cool Sudoku techie-machine to exercise my brain.

I packed it with me it to the high oxygen-thin Andes of Cusco, Peru, where my wife and I sat and mind-sweated Spanish immersion classes alongside other enthusiastic young travellers in a school for 4 hours each weekday for almost 4 months. Aye ay ay Dios Mio! Divertido, si!!

In a strange twist, this Sudoku “machine”, the exerciser that was supposed to pump heavy iron in my dumbbell mind became my go-to relaxation elixir.

The brain stimulator became the soothing pillow to relax my poor worn-out head at the end of a challenging session of verb conjugations and long vocabulary lists en espanol.

I… we… you and I? We need to exercise our brains just like we exercise our bodies. Four more, three more … A holistically healthy approach to life necessitates exercising our physical, our mental, and our spiritual bodies.

For me, one of the main reasons and benefits of writing this blog each week is the mental workout it puts me through. I’m – marginally – more coherent in my day-to-day life because I do my weekly “exercise”.

I was strongly reminded of this last week when reading a chapter in Neil Pasricha’s book The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything (what can I say… I’m a self-help junkie! HELP!!). (Aside: I try to have at least 2 books on the go at any one time… one a non-fiction one like the book above, and a fiction book to nourish and stimulate my creative side … my (pseudo-) fiction book choice currently is The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer)

Pasricha talks of the final column, written in 2005, of famed New York Times columnist William Safire. Offered as Safire’s “retirement” column, it really was something far more than that.

William Safire

William Safire

I’ll let Safire explain in his own words…

The Nobel laureate James Watson, who started a revolution in science as co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, put it to me straight a couple of years ago: “Never retire. Your brain needs exercise or it will atrophy.”

Why, then, am I bidding Op-Ed readers farewell today after more than 3,000 columns? Nobody pushed me; at 75, I’m in good shape, not afflicted with political ennui; and my recent column about tsunami injustice and the Book of Job drew the biggest mail response in 32 years of pounding out punditry.

Here’s why I’m outta here: In an interview 50 years before, the aging adman Bruce Barton told me something like Watson’s advice about the need to keep trying something new, which I punched up into “When you’re through changing, you’re through.” He gladly adopted the aphorism, which I’ve been attributing to him ever since.

Combine those two bits of counsel – never retire, but plan to change your career to keep your synapses snapping – and you can see the path I’m now taking. Readers, too, may want to think about a longevity strategy.

We’re all living longer. In the past century, life expectancy for Americans has risen from 47 to 77. With cures for cancer, heart disease and stroke on the way, with genetic engineering, stem cell regeneration and organ transplants a certainty, the boomer generation will be averting illness, patching itself up and pushing well past the biblical limits of “threescore and ten.”

But to what purpose? If the body sticks around while the brain wanders off, a longer lifetime becomes a burden on self and society. Extending the life of the body gains most meaning when we preserve the life of the mind…

… So I told The Times’s publisher two years ago that the 2004 presidential campaign would be my last hurrah as political pundit, and that I would then take on the full-time chairmanship of Dana (a research foundation). He expressed appropriate dismay at losing the Op-Ed conservative but said it would be a terrible idea to abandon the Sunday language column. That’s my scholarly recreation, so I agreed to continue. (Don’t use so as a conjunction!)

Starting next week, working in an operating and grant-making foundation, I will have to retrain parts of my brain. That may not make me a big man on hippocampus, but it means less of the horizon-gazing that required me to take positions on everything going on in the world; instead, a welcome verticalism will drive me to dig more deeply into specific areas of interest. Fewer lone-wolf assertions; more collegial dealing. I hear that’s tough.

But retraining and fresh stimulation are what all of us should require in “the last of life, for which the first was made.” Athletes and dancers deal with the need to retrain in their 30’s, workers in their 40’s, managers in their 50’s, politicians in their 60’s, academics and media biggies in their 70’s. The trick is to start early in our careers the stress-relieving avocation that we will need later as a mind-exercising final vocation. We can quit a job, but we quit fresh involvement at our mental peril…

…how many of us are planning now for our social activity accounts? Intellectual renewal is not a vast new government program, and to secure continuing social interaction deepens no deficit. By laying the basis for future activities in the midst of current careers, we reject stultifying retirement and seize the opportunity for an exhilarating second wind.

Medical and genetic science will surely stretch our life spans. Neuroscience will just as certainly make possible the mental agility of the aging. Nobody should fail to capitalize on the physical and mental gifts to come.

When you’re through changing, learning, working to stay involved – only then are you through. “Never retire.”

Yup. Never retire.

Find a new sport to delve into. Volunteer at the local college. Take an online course in winemaking. Sign onto a building crew at Habitat for Humanity. Study to get certified as an Undertaker. Join a theatre club. Join a book club. Join a bowling or golf club.

Whatever… wherever…whenever… you find that youthful lightning bolt of enthusiasm or excitement? That will be the magnet that pulls you out of “retirement” and into a sense of usefulness and aliveness in your days.

Make sure your brain sends new signals through the synapses of discovery feeding the fires burning inside you as surely as your heart pumps life-giving blood to your active muscles.

Reach toward that crimson sunset of each day with an eager anticipation of a beautiful sunrise to greet your morning eyes.

Yup. Screw retirement! Oops! Sorry about the language.

How thoughtless of me.

Your cup is empty. Can I offer you a refill?

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The Retirement Race?

Reinventing Ourselves by Changing Underwear

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underwear men

PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Yup, that’s all. That’s what a friend said to me in response to “Vagina Monologue” in last week’s blog title.

Penis Paragraph … snicker snicker … funny … Ha Ha

Funny – not Ha Ha – is growing older, developing wrinkles and sagging skin but not being tuned in enough to see it.

It’s funny because inside myself I’m the same kid who jumped out of bed this morning (it is 1967, right?) when I smelled Mom cooking bacon in the kitchen. Thanks Mom, you’re the best!

After I eat the crispy delicious bacon I run to the bathroom before school starts and I look in the mirror.

OMG!

YIKES!

How the hell did my Dad hijack my face while I was sleeping? Back To The Future. Balding … hair sprouting from my ears and nose. Yup, it’s pretty clear that I’ve changed.

After absorbing the shock that I look different … I begin to realize that NO, I’m really NOT the same kid inside that I was back when JFK was shot … or JR was shot … or Reagan was shot … I’ve changed and my label has changed.

I used to deliver newspapers and flip burgers as a youngster, then migrated onwards to growing smelly bacteria in a lab. All different labels.

Now I pour shots in my new job as a bartender. That’s putting on a new label.

old time bartender

When you retire or quit a job, or are fired or downsized, you peel off all the labels …

I’m an architect, I’m a chef, I’m a doctor, I’m a plumber.

Labels get peeled off like dirty old underwear.

You shower and all the remnants of who you once were are washed away, ready to pull on a clean new pair of whatever.

The old way of retiring meant you went commando, no fresh underwear, no changes, just sitting on the front porch waiting for the Grim Reaper to waltz up your driveway in the twilight of your day …

Nowadays, most retirees put on some sort of crisp, fresh underwear. My latest pair says BARTENDER on the front.

I’ve been alive for 21,265 days… at this point, I’m a dim spaceship travelling through the galaxy and one day my light will be extinguished.

One of the great things about modern medicine is that our light can burn dimly much longer than it could 100 years ago… we have better telescopes so we can extend our reach. Most of us want our light to burn a bit longer so we can try on a new pair of underwear.

Re-invention, whether at my age, or much younger, is about extending our reach from inside ourselves.

... Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

… Adapt and you might get a fresh pair of underwear

A hundred years ago, you were born to a farmer, or a butcher.

And if you were a boy you lived your life as a farmer or a butcher and your obituary was a short one. One pair of underwear.

If you were a girl? Well, you awoke each day as a homemaker/farm wife, looking after your husband farmer or husband butcher, making all the decisions that mattered without him every realizing it. One pair of underwear.

Today is different and exciting and scary because we’re not only choosing to change our underwear but in many cases, we have no choice.

Job security is spinning wildly out of our galaxy and we can’t bring it back. Reinvention is happening, like it or not.

I began my lab technology career sticking needles in peoples’ arms, sucking out tubes of blood and then testing it in an Auto-Analyzer machine that took up half a large room. I finished my career 37 years later sitting in front of a powerful computer, sucking data out of a machine that was smaller than my desk.

CH-CH-Changes! We all adapt in one form or another, like it or not.

And if we want the most from our lives… the most contentment, the most satisfaction, the most happiness … we need to be adaptable enough to accept and embrace (most) change … none of us is so strong as to hold back the surging tsunami of technology.

Wrinkled crows-feet eyes or smooth as a baby’s bottom forehead, change in each of our lives is perennial as the sun rising.

Attitude is the distinction.

A fresh change of underwear always feels good… like crisp, clean sheets. Mmmmmmmmm.

Everything and anything seems possible.

And that my friend is this week’s PENIS PARAGRAPH!

Penis costume

How To Go Out At The Top While Growing A Pair …

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HAPPY SAD

I’m struggling to write this blog post this week.

Happy Sad Knees

 

You know that game we play with infants? Yeah, the one where we pull an open hand across our face – we start with a big smile and then … as our hand slowly passes over our face the smile turns magically into a sad sad frown.

That is the week that was.

Normally each week, I unearth a blog topic that intrigues me and the words begin flowing slowly and then the current of the river picks up in pace and rhythm. The muse kicks in and it just happens.

For me, this is a jumbled week of emotions, both positive and negative. It’s all about departures.

There are doors and windows flinging open and slamming shut for me in the windy maelstrom that is life.

As I write, someone close to me is edging silently, unstoppingly, towards the exit door of life. Cancer is having its way and it’s not pretty.

Do you have one of those people in your life that you can’t believe will ever die?

They’ve always seemed invincible, and like a 250 year-old majestic cedar in the rainforest, there is no wind or lightning storm that can cause them to topple.

Until they do, suddenly, tragically, mysteriously.

All that’s left after the fall is an ugly hole and a ragged scar in the earth until the ache slowly subsides and healing begins to take hold – eventually all returns to a new normal, a normal that never quite feels like the old normal.

Cut Cedar Stump

In the same week as this happens, my long – yes, 25 crazy years long – “planned retirement” has taken place. My co-workers happily razz me as I’ve threatened to retire since I was 30 years old.

Anyway, after 37 years as a medical lab technologist, I’ve chosen to push the employment door open and leap into the thin air … thin because there’s no longer a bi-weekly parachuting paycheque providing a security cloud to reassuredly float upon. Thin too, because it’s a major upheaval to the world I’ve always known.

I said in an earlier post that the only thing we have to do is die.

All we have to do is … die.

Everything else is optional, a choice, a decision that makes us think about where we want to be and where we want to go.

It sounds simple on the surface and utterly rational, but making choices is really one of life’s more difficult assignments.

I don’t want to expire in my office chair … either literally or figuratively. I’m not the drag-him-out-by-his-boots kind of guy.

Workwise, I’ve been expiring little-by-little as the IT role I fill loses the challenges it once held. A few years ago I woke up each morning with enthusiastic thoughts about the problems I would conquer and the great feelings associated with overcoming the blockages.

But the demanding obstructions grew fewer as I began to master the part (I guess I was approaching 10,000 hours of practice!). I slowly began to give off those fouls smells of stagnation – I still enjoyed going to the office, but now mainly for the social outlet of the wonderful people I worked with.

You and I have been conditioned from our earliest infant breaths to go to elementary school, high school, college/university, get a job, marry and settle down, have kids, grandkids, then … lie down on the sofa watching the 10 o’clock news and sucking in our last inhalation … The Story of A Life.

But it’s just one story and just one path.

Make it your story and not the one handed to you like it was the only card in the deck. I’m pulling another card from the deck. You’ll be hearing more about this in my blog posts as I stumble along.

YellowBrickRoadFork

There are forks in the road, and the right decision is taking the fork that you want and not the want being pressed on you by those around you. This is harder than it looks and it’s subtle.

What does your heart say?

What does your stomach tell you?

If you wake up and don’t remember the last time you felt like skipping to work on Monday morning, then listen very carefully because the signs are whispering in your ear.

Sure, the fear is there too. But inside of your fear is a message. It’s a cry for change.

Hear the cry. Feel the tears.

Find a creative way to take a step beyond –  where you reach forward, as if stretching precariously out over the Grand Canyon and suck in the rarified air that so few have sampled.

If and when you accept the fear and move forward anyway despite the risks, you have the best junkie high ever.

skydiving

I’m starting my new life this coming week as I absorb the painful passing of someone I love.

The only thing I have to do is die.

And when the day comes that I’m lying in my deathbed, I want to know that I loved and feared and lived.

The emotions – the good, the bad, and the ugly – have all been accepted and embraced. I’m growing a pair.

For better. For worse…

… ’til death I depart.