May 20, 2018

Discover Your Passions: Know Who You Are

While I am on vacation and in places with spotty Internet coverage I am re-running some popular posts of the past several years. I can't respond to comments but please feel free to leave your thoughts for everyone to read and think about. Please enjoy some of the articles that you might have missed the first time around.

Fresh posts will return on May 29th!

What follows is a guest post from author Boyd Lemon. I'm pleased to share some of his thoughts on an important topic: discovering your passion by discovering who you are.

Key to a fulfilling life

A key to living a fulfilling life in retirement is having or discovering a passion (or passions), something that truly drive you, that you feel you are here on earth to do.

I have known a few people, one quite well, who discovered in their early twenties what was important to them, what their passions were, what they felt they were here on earth to do, and pursued those passions. They knew themselves and didn’t let their parents, friends or society dictate how they would live or what their life’s purpose was. I envy them. Most of us are not as perceptive of ourselves at such a young age.

I had to discover a passion for retirement because I had worked all my life at something that I was not passionate about. I understood that in order to discover a passion I had to understand who I am. Figuring out who I am was not complicated, but it required time and effort. It took a lot of mental work, the hardest kind of work. It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error, the scariest kind of work. But almost anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a monk, priest, philosopher or psychologist. You don’t have to have a college degree.

What does it mean to ask who am I? 

It sounds like some new age gobbledygook, but it is really not as mysterious as it sounds. Who I am, the authentic me, consists of what fulfills me; what, to me, is important and unimportant; what I like and dislike; what interests me and what does not; what I want out of life; what makes me feel that I am doing something worthwhile; what makes me feel happy, fulfilled, competent and esteemed. What makes me feel sad, frustrated, angry, afraid and inadequate was instructive. When I grasped what caused those feelings, I was close to discovering what I was passionate about.

Knowing yourself makes it more likely that you will find something that you are or become passionate about. Although there is such a thing as an epiphany, when all of a sudden something important just comes to you, the discovery of a passion did not come to me in that way. Usually some experience with something is required before it becomes a passion.

Finding out who I am not was also helpful. I am not my job. Although I didn’t realize it for years, I was not a lawyer. I practiced law, but a lawyer was not who I was or who I am. I was not wholly a husband or a father; they were only part of what I was. Just as one never really knows another person, he never totally knows himself. Knowing yourself is a lifelong process that never ends.

Questions Asked

During the process of finding out who I am and am not I found a passion. Some of the things I asked myself and did that helped me understand who I am and to discover my passion were:

• I thought long and hard about what during the course of my life I had enjoyed doing. I also thought about what I didn’t enjoy. I considered what made my heart sing, what excited me, what I wished I could do more of, what were some general characteristics of what I enjoyed. Were they usually done outdoors? Did they involve something creative—music, dance, painting, writing, building or designing things? Did they involve doing things with my hands?

• What part of my job or jobs did I enjoy?

• I thought about what other people that I admired were doing.

• I even made lists of possibilities.

• I understood that I liked to learn new things and considered what type of things I would enjoy learning.

• I asked myself whether I am a planner, or am I more spontaneous? Some activities need more planning than others. Some of the creative arts are relatively spontaneous. Organizing a political campaign requires a lot of planning.

• Many people are passionate about creating. I thought about whether there was anything I would like to create. Men especially often bury the creative side of themselves. Once guys reach adolescence they are not encouraged to pursue anything creative. That doesn’t mean it isn’t buried down there somewhere. I tried digging it up.

• I always knew that history, art and culture interested me. There are a lot of activities that involve history, art and culture, including travel and writing.

•I realized I am not really a people person. I am more the solitary type, an introvert. This is important because a people person probably shouldn’t try to pursue something that involves a lot of alone time—writing, for example; a solitary person should not try something that keeps him around people most of the time, such as fundraising for charities.

• Do I enjoy physical effort or mental effort more, I asked?

• Do I need to keep busy doing a lot of different tasks, or am I happy focusing on one thing for a long time?

• Do I enjoy dealing with detail, or am I more a big picture person?
• Am I a perfectionist?

• Does helping other people make me feel fulfilled?

• Do I like sports, reading, writing, listening to music, hiking, taking photos?

• I looked through the catalogue of local night schools and extension schools to find classes that interested me, not necessarily to take the classes, but to clarify what types of subject matter interested me.

• I thought about what the meaning or purpose of my life could be? What would fulfill me or might leave my mark here on earth?

• I tried to keep an open mind and do and see things I normally wouldn’t. I read about things I hadn’t read about before, realizing that I might discover something that I had buried, so I might not readily see or feel it. I examined every possibility I could think of.

• I thought about my values. Why am I here? Why is anybody here? What is most important to me? I read books about what other people have had to say about those questions.

Eventually, I discovered that my passions were writing and travel, and that is what I have focused during my retirement, which has been the most fulfilling time in my life.

Boyd Lemon-Author of Retirement: A Memoir and Guide; Eat, Walk, Write: An American Senior’s Year of Adventure in Paris and TuscanyDigging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages; and 4 other booksInformation, reviews and excerpts:  Amazon Author Page:

Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this guest post or its promotional value.

May 17, 2018

Finding a True Friend

While I am on vacation and in places with spotty Internet coverage I am re-running some popular posts of the past several years. I can't respond to comments but please feel free to leave your thoughts for everyone to read and think about. Please enjoy some of the articles that you might have missed the first time around.

Fresh posts will return on May 29th!

This topic is on my mind because of the just-concluded trip to Oregon to visit a few fellow bloggersAs things turned out I have made several real friends out of virtual ones. What happened to make this transition? What are the characteristics we look for when asking someone else into our life? Since having friends is an important part of a satisfying retirement it seemed worth a closer look.

One of the keys is the ability to share openly. If we are with someone and we must constantly watch what we say or self-censor too much, then a real friendship is unlikely. Sharing both joys and sorrows is critical to a meaningful friendship. That can't happen if communication isn't open and expressive. We shouldn't be hesitant to open up to a real friend.

Be willing to try and experience new things together is a good test of a friendship. When any of us leave our comfort zone there is some tension and nervousness present. Even something as simple as trying a different cuisine because your friend likes it can reveal a lot about the state of the relationship. Traveling might be a better test. Being together for several days while away from the security of home and routine can quickly test a budding friendship. If you can laugh together at misfortunes and share great experiences, then a deep friendship may be possible.

A core of common beliefs and the acceptance of different beliefs must both be present. While these points might seem contradictory, I believe they are critical. Common beliefs might include the importance of respect for other people, that discrimination has no place in our society, or that children deserve the very best we can provide. Different beliefs may be about spirituality or religion, political affiliations and hot button issues of the day. Friendship requires that those differences are never used as a wedge or weapon. Spirited discussions and honest disagreements should create a stronger bond between two people that value that relationship.

There must be no pressure to "perform." Think back to a dating relationship you have had. The small talk and overt politeness are part of that world. We want to present our best possible face to the other person. But, in a true friendship it is perfectly OK for one person to be having a bad day and admit it. We don't have to always look or feel our best all the time. That isn't real life and friends don't want someone to put up a front or play a part. "Dress-up" isn't part of this type of relationship.

There must be an sincere interest  to learn more about that person. Nothing could be more unfulfilling than to spend time with someone over a long period of time and never learn more about each other. That would mean one or both people are being dishonest about their feelings and needs. It would mean that the relationship would never become more than skin-deep.

Many people much wiser than I have made the point that friendship brings depth and joy to someone's life. True friendship is a special gift that two people give to each other. As Proverbs notes, "Disregarding another person's faults preserves love." Deep friendship is an essential part of a satisfying retirement and a life lived well and fully.

May 14, 2018

Retirees: How Did We Grow Up So Deprived?

While I am on vacation and in places with spotty Internet coverage I am re-running some popular posts of the past several years. I can't respond to comments but please feel free to leave your thoughts for everyone to read and think about. Please enjoy some of the articles that you might have missed the first time around.

Fresh posts will return on May 29th!

The speed at which technology evolves is both amazing and terrifying. Just when we take the plunge and buy something new to enhance our satisfying retirement, the upgraded model is already been released. I read a few days ago that up to 33% of all adults will be using tablets, like iPads and Kindles within four years. Considering that the very first iPad was made available less than two years ago, that is incredible.

This shift in how our lives are directly and deeply impacted by technology got me thinking about the things that seemed so normal when we were growing up. Today, most of our citizens would feel severely deprived if they had to live with:

Only 3 TV channels. ABC, CBS, and NBC were it when I was young. We were not the first to have a TV in our neighborhood. I remember running down the street to watch The Howdy Doody Show at a friend's home...on a 13" screen. Today even "basic" cable has 22 choices! 

Beta, then VHS tape. Our growing family choose the loser, Beta. Then, we spent months copying those tapes to VHS. Digital? Hadn't been invented yet. Remember sitting down to watch a movie and finding out someone hadn't rewound the tape from the last time? Or, the movie you wanted was in the middle of the tape and there was no search function? Streaming movies? Nope. No Internet!

No computers. I am not so old that I used an abacus, but I remember when having a small calculator for balancing a checkbook was a big deal. Occasionally we'd see a picture of a room-sized "super computer" but no one could imagine what it did or how it would ever be part of a normal person's life.

Pay Phones. Always leave home with several dimes (then quarters) in case you had to call someone during an emergency. Pay phones, undamaged and with a full phone book were as common as blue mailboxes (Oh, there's another thing that is virtually gone!). The idea of being in touch 24/7 would have seemed ludicrous. Who is that important?

Long distance train travel instead of airplanes. Taking 2 days to get to Florida instead of 4 hours. Planning a trip to include sleeping and eating while the country and city view rolled by your window. Not having to take off part of your clothing to travel and railroad employees who treated you like a guest, not an inconvenience.

Just one car per family. For most of us, one car was entirely sufficient. Dad went to work while Mom stayed home. She was the chauffeur for after school events, if Dad took the train to work. Otherwise, the kids walked or took a bus. The family went out to dinner or driving vacations together. Whoever got to sit in the front seat was allowed to control the AM radio.

Music on big vinyl discs that get scratched. Learning to pick up a tone arm and put it on the track you wanted in the middle of the record became a necessary skill. The only thing that was burned was toast in the kitchen. The idea of creating your own music disc?.....a daydream. You liked one song you bought a 45 rpm single. You like two songs you bought the entire album.

Neighborhood specialty stores. A big box store was a store that sold moving boxes. While there were some larger supermarkets in bigger towns and cities, they could be quite a drive away.

7-11 or Circle K didn't exist, so filling in the shopping gaps took place at a local general type store that handled more than just food. But, if tools or duct tape were needed a small hardware store would be your destination.

Gas stations only sold gas, not sandwiches, cold drinks, and candy. Selections of most products were rather limited and out-of-season fruits and vegetables were generally unavailable year round.

No ATM Machines. If you were low on cash you made a trip to a local bank, you talked with a real teller while she (few male tellers!) cashed your check. If cash ran short on weekends, then you didn't spend it because there was no way to get any more.

Vacations that involved mostly sitting, talking, or napping. Many of us spent the family vacation at the beach, or at a church camp in the woods. Others would pile in the family station wagon and visit relatives.

I spent many joyous summers on my grandfather's summer "farm", a two story home and barn on 36 acres about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh. 

There was no electricity and no running water. All we had to keep us busy for two weeks was our imagination and helping granddad repair something that needed fixing. The outhouse was down the path and the kerosene lanterns were all we needed to have someone read us a story before bed. And the hammock was always occupied.

I could continue with another page or two, but I bet I've stimulated some memories of yours. What do you remember growing up with that no longer exists, or most younger folks would think belongs in a museum? Are we better off with the newer "models?" In many cases, yes. But, there are parts of our lives growing up that younger folks will never experience and that's too bad. My satisfying retirement is certainly built on some of the things that are no longer part of our world.

May 11, 2018

Now That You Are Retired What Is Your Favorite Day of The Week?

....and don't say all of them!

During my career, Saturday was my choice. If I had been traveling I would be home by Friday night. Saturday was the day to decompress a bit, be with the family, and catch up on office work. Sundays would be the day I dreaded since that was when I had to pack and be prepared to leave again Monday morning.

Now that I am retired Monday would be my pick. A fresh week lies in front of me, full of opportunities and experiences, some scheduled, some not. Since we attempt to avoid crowds by not shopping much on weekends, Monday may have a few necessary errands: bank, home improvement store, library. But, doing these things when many other folks are at work makes them actually enjoyable.

Wednesday is our busiest day. Food shopping, a few hours with the grandkids in the afternoon, a trip to the gym or 30 minute walk, and a ham radio activity right after dinner makes that day rather full....a good full but still pretty hectic.

Time does seem to take on a different feel during retirement. Monday and Tuesday have a decent pace and rhythm. Each goes by at a comfortable, acceptable speed. 

Then someone flips a switch. Before I am ready for the week to be almost over  it is Friday again. Chores and something fun to do takes care of Saturday. Sunday is pretty much a blur: church followed by the afternoon and early evening spent with family for games, a movie or football game, and dinner. Then, back to Monday.

What about you? Which day of the week is your favorite? How about the day you don't look forward to and why?

This should be fun. Please share away!

May 8, 2018

I've Decided To Move From My Home: What Are My Choices?

There comes a time when most of us have to ask ourselves this question. No matter how much we love where we live, or how many memories lurk in each room, eventually safety must win out. Aging in place has its limits.

When the hallways and doors are too narrow for a wheelchair or walker, when the stairs make using the second floor difficult, or when kitchen cabinets are too high to reach, we know we should move. When in-home care is not available or too expensive we know we should move.

Our options are determined by several factors: activity level, finances, preferences, closeness of family or relatives, and the availability of more intensive care at some point in the future. For this post, I am assuming that your decision to move is not due to a serious medical problem, but more out of convenience, safety. and planning for your future. In no particular order, let's look at what we may consider:

1) Downsizing: This is an obvious choice. The house that was the perfect size for raising a family is now too big. The home that seemed to be just right for you, your craft room, and vegetable garden out back means too much cleaning and work. How much to downsize is a personal choice. For some, that might mean just thinning out possessions under the theory that the less stuff one owns the less there is to clean, dust, and store. For others, a reduction in physical size makes the most sense. After all, do you still need three bedrooms, a den, a formal dining room, and a living room?

Actually, I know of at least one blog reader who upsized after retiring. Housing was less expensive in their new location, plus he and his wife wanted extra space to indulge in their passions and interests.

2) Change in housing type: Often this happens as a result of downsizing. Instead of a single family home in the suburbs, a smaller condo makes sense. Most of the maintenance is handled by someone else. A townhome near an urban center seems to beckon with its restaurants, museums, clubs, and shopping. Tiny houses call some, while full time RVing is best for others. 

3) Ownership versus renting: Most of us were raised with the belief that owning a house was the ultimate mark of being a grownup. A mortgage came with adulthood. Well, as we age that may not be the best choice. Instead of tying up hundreds of thousands of dollars in something as illiquid as a house sitting on a plot of land, paying a monthly rent suddenly makes sense. Property taxes are no longer your concern. Maintenance? Not your problem. Changes in the tax law may mean a mortgage deduction isn't helpful. Tired of living where you do? Give 30 days notice and move somewhere else. 

4) Cohousing or sharing home with another senior: There is an important difference between these two options. Cohousing communities are a group of maybe 10-20 housing unites (homes or townhomes) built around a common area. Most cohousing setups encourage generational mixing: young families, those with older children, and empty nesters live in the homes. The idea is to avoid the age separation that happens in 55+ communities.

Sharing a home with another senior or two is like the roommate relationship you might have experienced in college. Two or more compatible people live in the same dwelling, sharing experiences, chores, and cooking. This could involve either a private home, or an apartment.

5) Living with relatives: Multi-generational living is more common in other countries and cultures, but America is catching up. Whether in a separate "grandmother" cottage, as a suite with its own bathroom, or simply a bedroom in the home, having mom, dad, or uncle Ed sharing space with family is not all that unusual anymore. Of course, such an arrangement comes with all sorts of consequences and complications that must be worked out ahead of time. 

6) Residential care homes: Think a very small 55+ community. Often, a residential care home looks like a private dwelling on any street in any town in America. Instead of one family, a RCH has a handful of seniors, each living in a private room, but sharing common spaces with others. Usually some limited form of housekeeping, meal service, and care are part of the deal.

7) CCRC: This is a community of 55+ individuals with the full range of housing choices: individual living, assisted living, and nursing care facilities on site. I've written about this choice several times before so I won't list all the pros and cons. But, a CCRC is a favorite choice of many of us when it is time to move.

OK, your turn. Which of these options is likely to be somewhere in your future? Or, do you have another choice I missed?