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