September 30, 2022

How Would I Live Differently... If?

You see them on the side of milk containers, or on the tops of canned goods. Over-the-counter medicines and treatments have them, too. The "best if used by" date is when the manufacturer has determined that a product is past the time when you should consume or use it. 

The cynic in me says those dates are designed to get us to replace a perfectly good product with a new one. I know when we cleaned out my dad's apartment after his passing, we found things in his medicine cabinet that were years too old but still worked for him, and had nothing to do with his cause of death.. So, I fudge a bit. A can of mixed fruit probably won't kill me if the date was five months ago. But, after a nasty experience with turned milk, that date I follow. 

So, here is a random thought: what if humans had a "best if used by" date stamped on our can (butt), or somewhere on our body? How would that affect how we spend our days?

I like this question because there is no correct answer. In fact, the question is answerable only in the abstract. To decide what I would have done differently for the past 73 years or what I will do in the time remaining if I learned when I was going to expire, is simply an interesting mental exercise, isn't it?

Another version of this would be, "what would you do if you knew you had one year to live?" My answer (and more importantly, yours) gets to the heart of what we have decided is important to us. It helps us clarify what we have learned that makes our life worth living. With an expiration date, we have no more fantasy about the lie we tell ourselves that "there's always tomorrow" or "I have all the time in the world to do that."

If I had an expiration date or just discovered my "best if used by " stamp what would I do differently? A few thoughts may get you to ask yourself the same questions and entertain us with your answers. Of course, how long in the future I have until I expire affects my answers. So, just for sake of argument, let's assume it is 5 years in the future:

* My to-do list each day would probably look different.

* I would see some of the sights I  promised to see "someday."

* I would cut back on computer time.

* How I spend my retirement money would change.

* My spiritual life would likely deepen and strengthen.

* I would leave a book of my life lessons for my children and grandkids.

Because this is just a fantasy (I hope!) it is hard to say what else might be on this list. But, the last item jumped out at me as probably the most important. 

Regular readers know my wife is a photographer. We have hundreds of analog snapshots and a few hundred thousand digital photos filling a linen closet and several computer hard drives. So, forgetting what I looked like and the times we all spent together wouldn't be a worry for those left behind.

Of more lasting value may be what I can pass on to my kids and their kids. Like you, I have had my troubles. I have been fired, seen the dark side of some financial reversals, watched a business I built fail, had family members die, and struggled to be the kind of husband I promised to be 46 years ago.

Even so, I take the Satisfying Retirement title of this blog very seriously. If my life hadn't been one of learning and growing, solving problems, and moving forward my retirement wouldn't look like it has. If my health and finances hadn't held up so far, there is little doubt I would be different.

There should be some life lessons that someone else in my family can benefit from. I feel obligated to tell them what I know to spare them as many stumbles as possible. I would spend some of my remaining time writing down what I have learned from this journey that has been my life. Hopefully, I would honestly detail my failures and missteps as much as my successes.  In that way, the things I have learned would not stop when I reached my due date.

I should quickly add I do not want to know my expiration date. If a fortune teller wants to read my palms to check on my "Life Line,"  I will politely decline. If some fancy DNA test says my odds are 72% I will live until I am 84, that's great, but it isn't gospel.

Only, if medical tests reveal something that is likely to give me a timeline, would I want to know. Otherwise, the joy of living is too precious to worry about when it will end. No "best if used date" on my body? Good.

What about you? Would you want to know? Even as an interesting experiment, what would be on your list to accomplish if you could see into the future?

September 26, 2022

What Do You Do For Fun?

It is time for a break from the serious side of retirement. For now, don't think about financial problems, relationship woes, the future of democracy,  health issues, or why eggs cost as much as meat, and since when are all doctors about 20 years old?

When was the last time you really had fun? Can you recall a moment when you just smiled, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed yourself? What happened to make you become a child again, full of joy or abandon?

Of course, we can't live in that moment all that often. That's not how life works. Plus, if almost everything was fun, then how special would it be? Doesn't something really light you up because it is not ordinary, not part of the day-to-day that makes up most days?

So, just for a little while today, I'd like you to remember something that was just plain fun...something that even now you remember fully and fondly. Then, I am going to ask you to share what you recall. Maybe your time of fun will inspire one of us to decide to follow your lead. Maybe your memories will give us the kick we need to add some fun to our day.

Here are thought starters, some possibilities of the last time you just really let loose and had fun. I imagine you will add your own way to kick loose:

Vacations and travel...I am hard-pressed to think someone doesn't go on a vacation or travel to a new or favorite spot, if not to have fun and make new memories.

Spending time in nature...maybe just a quiet hour enjoying the sights and sounds. Maybe sketching that monarch butterfly that is on the bush in from of you

Painting, writing, singing, dancing...any creative endeavor that makes you smile..woodworking, quilting, and photography come to mind.

Game nights...with family, spouse, partner, roommates, good friends. It could be a card game, board game, or something on the computer.

Playing VR games, watching favorite enjoyable way to pass a few hours is with a favorite flick, one that never seems to get old. If you are adventurous, maybe putting on a VR headset and exploring the jungles of Africa or diving into a VR coral reef is more your speed.

Walking, jogging, running a marathon...the health benefits and endorphins make you happy and feel productive.

Eating or cooking your favorite food...Why else go out to a meal? Whatever your favorite dish or cuisine, eating well is its own brand of fun.

Playing or watching a favorite sport...what other explanation could there be for someone to spend lots of money to watch grown men tackle each other, or someone bat a ball back and forth. Hitting the game-winning home run? Even better.

This should get you started. How do you have fun?

September 22, 2022

Keeping Yourself Alive and Well In a Relationship


Some time ago a reader posed an interesting, and important question. She wondered about retired couples whose desires aren't always in alignment. What can be done if one half of a couple wants to go in one direction, while the other person doesn't?

She cited travel as a good example of this type of conflict. One person really has his or her heart set on seeing the world, or at least someplace farther away than the local shopping mall. The other is a homebody and resists travel requests. Why? Health issues, financial worries, the horrible state of airline travel, fear of uncertainty, or simply being comfortable with the familiar,....there are all sorts of reasons why travel is a turnoff for someone. 

This type of disagreement is important to resolve. Travel may be one obvious point of contention, but probably not the only one. Loosening the purse strings is difficult for many of us. We spent decades saving, but now we find it tough to spend on ourselves.

Downsizing or moving to someplace with a different climate, eliminating or adding possessions, redoing the budget, cutting back to one car (or maybe none in an urban setting), and even interactions with other family members, are other possibilities for differences of opinion.

Virtually any aspect of a human relationship can become magnified during retirement. Being together full-time and maintaining a healthy, supportive relationship takes compromise. It requires each person to be able to listen to another's concerns without becoming judgemental.

So, what to do? How does a couple maintain a balance between different wants and points of view? It certainly isn't healthy for one person to always dictate what is done. May can present a few possibilities for you to consider.

Each of us must accept the legitimacy of the other person's point of view. While we may disagree, it doesn't help to dismiss something as silly or wrong. By definition, an opinion does not have to be based on facts. But, that doesn't mean it isn't very real to someone.

I can't stress enough the importance of compromise for both members of the relationship. If you don't accept the other person's view of things, you will have to develop the ability to find a way to blend their approach and yours. It isn't likely to be a 50-50 split; sometimes you will get more of your way and sometimes you won't. If you can't accept this, the long-term health of the relationship is in doubt.  

Understand that we don't lose our individuality when we form a bond with another. Even as part of a couple, there are times we need to do what is important to each of us. That doesn't diminish the power of two, it accepts the fact that there are two separate human beings involved. That means each of you needs "me" time to be happy when together. 

I know couples who require individual time apart, either for a few hours or even longer. Many years ago when my travel schedule was hectic and home life was a bit tense, Betty suggested I take a two-week vacation, alone, to my favorite place in the world, Maui.  After I got over the amazement of the generosity of the offer and her ability to know what we both needed at that time, I spent a glorious 14 days, alone, decompressing, shedding most of my tensions and concerns. I returned grateful, in much better condition to carry on with life, and with a scuba diving certificate as an added bonus!

Fair is fair: Betty also took a 2-week "sabbatical." After I returned from Maui, she headed off to Wisconsin for a 14-day drive around the state, doing what she loves best: staying in B&Bs and taking lots of movies and photos.

We passed our 46th anniversary a few months ago, so our ability to compromise and blend is still passing the test of time.

If I leave you with just one thought it is that a couple committed to each other will resolve these differences. Accept that both of you are equals, each view has validity, and there is a way to blend all ideas into a workable plan. Feel free to think outside the box. 

A two-week trip, alone, to Maui or Wisconsin, certainly broke most "rules," but was exactly what was needed at that time. Something that dramatic isn't always called for. Sometimes just an afternoon of  "me" time can work wonders.