Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sometimes I really love Facebook!

Facebook is my closet addiction. People post lots of junk, but I also find at least one useful nugget almost every day. I rediscover long-lost friends and stalk acquaintances. I follow links that send me meandering through interesting pictures and articles. I giggle and I grimace. Facebook isn't a replacement for sitting across from someone at a coffee shop or talking on the phone, but it provides a new richness to life that we didn't have without social media. It's a virtual form of travel that let's us see how other people live, what's important to them, what makes them laugh or cry, and what they are doing with their time. It enables us to maintain so many more connections than we could without Facebook, even if many of them are loosely held.

And what a Facebook-esque irony that today, when I was contemplating and writing about the Retirement Balancing Act, lo and behold, two of my friends shared this wonderful Kermit picture. It made me laugh and it brought me up short. It is important to be self-reflective and have a plan of sorts for your life. But it's also important to be able to laugh at yourself and just relish each day. Thanks, Kermit! And thanks, Facebook!

Retirement Balancing Act -- Part II

"No matter how much money you have, you can't buy more time." Bill Gates wrote that in a recent article (Three Things I Learned from Warren Buffett). If anyone should know what money can't buy, I guess it would be Bill Gates.

As someone who has always tried very hard to be constantly efficient and vigilant about time wasters, retirement poses a mental challenge. I've reached a stage in my life where it should be OK to have a more leisurely pace and even to waste a little time. But even three years into this retirement project, I'm still racked by guilt if I don't feel like my day has been productive enough.

But what does a "productive day" look like when you're retired? I want to have a full life, but I don't want to exchange the work treadmill for some other self-created treadmill. It seems obvious that I need to mentally redefine productivity in terms of quality more than quantity, but of course that is easier said than done. I have important volunteer obligations which certainly make me feel valuable and productive. But I need to take care that volunteerism doesn't become a "job" that makes me feel guilty when I'm not fully devoted to it. I didn't work so hard to earn a pension just to substitute unpaid work that carries the same baggage.

For me in retirement, the assessment of productivity at the end of the day needs to be selfish. Did I do something today to nurture my body? Did I do something today to nurture my spirit? Did I do something today to expand my mind? When I can answer "yes" to each of those questions every day, or better yet, when those things are so automatic that I no longer need to interrogate myself, then I have succeeded at the Retirement Balancing Act.

By the way, the young woman in that stunning photo is our daughter Cindy on a South Africa trip with her friends. So far, her balance (both physical and metaphorical) is much better than mine.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Retirement Balancing Act

In my later years of being a working mother, I used to advise my younger colleagues not to get complacent. As a working mom, just when you think you've got things all figured out, something will come along to throw it off kilter. It might be a new job assignment, a tough adjustment to a new teacher in school, a beloved nanny who decides to "retire." Achieving equilibrium as a working mom is a transient state, to be savored while it lasts.

For many years, I had two primary roles: mom and career. Anything else, including me-time and time with my spouse, was a distant third. I felt successful when I did a good job of balancing the "top two" and had no illusions that I was a skilled enough juggler to try for more. I loved those years and I wouldn't trade them for anything; but I had a dream. Someday, when our nest was empty, when I retired, I would have a more balanced life and nurture more than my two-dimensional self.

And now that I've been retired for almost three years, have I achieved that desirable balance? Yes and no. I've discovered that I'm simply not the type of person who does well with a disciplined routine. I exercise most days. I play the piano most days. I read most days. But not at the same time or for the same amount of time every day. That's just not me. So I find that the message about complacency that I delivered to my younger working-mom colleagues is true for retirement as well (at least so far). Equilibrium is a transient state, to be savored while it lasts. It seems to last longer in retirement, but it still takes effort and attention to achieve balance.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Leadership is about making others better as result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. 

-- Harvard Business School as quoted 
by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In 
(I think you could substitute "Parenting" for leadership,
 and it would also work.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lasting change cannot be forced, only inspired. 
-- Kao Kalin Yang
 The Latehomecomer: 
A Hmong Family Memoir

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Quote of the Day -- Chinese Proverb

He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.
-- Chinese Proverb
via Viking Explorer Society

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thought for the Day -- Miles Kington

Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting them in fruit salad.
-- Miles Kington

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quote of the Day -- Ambrose Bierce

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech that you will ever regret.
-- Ambrose Bierce

They're so young and maybe they've never suffered, but...

One of my favorite blogs is Marc and Angel Hack Life. They do a great job of bringing together ideas about how to do better and feel better every day, but...
I look at their photo on their Web site, and they look so young. I feel a little guilty about the pleasure and inspiration that I often get in reading their posts. After all, shouldn't wisdom come from people who are older and more experienced (like me)? Can they really dispense sound advice when their smiling young faces so clearly say that they've never suffered?

My book club had this debate recently. We had read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
One of our members felt highly resentful that someone like Rubin, who had a good life and was already quite happy, would presume to embark on a project to be even happier and to share it with others. The rest of us rather enjoyed her light-hearted approach to improving on what was already pretty good. I appreciate people like Rubin who have the right balance of dispensing good information and advice without pontificating or taking themselves too seriously. (And I despise sports announcers who don't seem to realize that it is, after all, just a game.)

I have great admiration for people who have suffered tragedy or hardship and don't (like my book club friend) resent those who haven't. People like me whose lives have gone along pretty smoothly feel strong twinges of guilt when we see the misfortunes of others, particularly our friends and relatives. And I confess to being a bit superstitious as well, muttering "there but for the grace of God go I."

It isn't my fault that my life has been more fortunate than others. Certainly, I've worked hard and been careful, but so have others I know who are not so fortunate. I hope that my good fortune makes me both empathetic and generous. And yet, I think I'm still entitled to strive for improvement, to seek enrichment, and read advice about how to relish each moment and make it a little better. You never know how long the good moments will last, so why not live them to the fullest?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reflections on a "Do It Now" Retirement

Do it now! -- Duane Comport (1923-2012)
Many other people have no doubt said this, but my dad made the biggest impression on me with these words.
Three years ago, I made the decision to retire. Although I'd been debating with myself for several years, in the end, deciding to retire was easy. We'd done the spreadsheets to know I could retire. Then my mom got sick, which meant I should retire. And her illness also revealed to me how much I wanted to retire. I no longer loved my job. And I had no stomach for walking the tightrope between personal and professional life that I had accomplished so successfully (most of the time) when raising my kids. I didn't feel I had the energy to do that with an ailing mom and a no longer "do it now" dad. So, retire I did. For such a momentous decision, it was ultimately made in "Do it now!" style.

Fortunately, my mom's illness proved to be symptom-free for quite a long time. It got her in the end, in February of 2012, but until the last two months, she was relatively healthy and mentally as sharp as ever. So I had the luxury of learning to be retired and doing all the things I wanted to do, more or less, while still spending time with my parents.

That's where the "do it now" dilemma of retirement comes in. I've discovered in my almost three years of "leisure" that retirement is its own kind of balancing act -- teetering between "I should" and "why should I?" 

Without the daily grind and monster to-do list, life becomes a wonderful and scary blank slate. A retiree's to-do list becomes mostly a list of your own making, with your own idiosyncratic priorities. And things that you thought you would do, such as writing regular blog posts, somehow keep getting shuffled to the bottom of the list.

I recently took a fun class -- at least fun for a "writing nerd" like me. The class reminded me of how much I love to write, which I know is hard to believe because most people hate to write. I also started reading the wonderfully funny book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I found myself saying over and over "I wish I'd written that." So I'm determined to give it a whirl. I'm not completely sure what my "voice" will be. But here I am... Just Jelan.