November 17, 2011

It Only Takes A Few Minutes

The world is a scary and upsetting place. The amount of bad news overwhelms any stories that may cheer you up. One gets the feeling we are intent on destroying ourselves. Being in a non-stop political campaign doesn't help since the entire thrust is for one side to declare the other is working  to ruin our way of life and is evil personified.

Live long enough and you learn to take most of that with a very large grain of salt. Unless you are convinced there is a grand conspiracy at work, you begin to filter out the most extreme stuff. Frankly, if you intend to have a satisfying retirement (or a satisfying anything) you have to, or your ability to enjoy life will be at risk.

This year, I have taken a few simple steps to eliminate some of the negative clutter in my life. I have developed a filtering system to cut back on the stuff that drives me crazy. If you find yourself dwelling on the bad stuff too much, maybe some of this will work for you.

I have pruned back the list of blogs I read and follow. Too many of them spend too much time ranting about the unfairness of life, the dysfunctional political system, or the need to blame someone for their plight. Filling my in-box and my mind with that drivel every day obviously was going to affect my attitude. One blogger, in particular, has had a tough run of luck and circumstances the past several years. But, the lashing out at everyone and everything was getting to me. This person has more issues than a magazine. When I realized I feared seeing a new post in my blog reader,  it was time to stop reading. While what this person wrote about was often true, the vitriolic approach was not contributing to my day.

Other bloggers were a bit less angry, but nevertheless were not leaving me in a good frame of mind. I know things are screwed up and I am every bit as upset as anyone. But, pouring that anger into my head from all sorts of sources wasn't helping. So, I cut out the blogs that hurt rather than helped me.

Regular readers know I canceled cable TV last spring. I wasn't watching enough to justify the cost and the quality of a lot of the programming was dreadful, insulting, and sometimes disgusting. Reality TV shows are often designed to provoke the worst in both the performers and viewers. The news channels have staked out a part of the political turf and allowed no other viewpoint to grow. Prime time TV is either about sex, violence, or sex. By walking away  my life was instantly improved. Not only did I gain a few hours a night that was wasted, but my attitude improved. "Must-see TV" became a "Must-not for me."

I have found I am spending more time with people who enrich my life and less time with those who don't. These folks add warm, love, spiritual support, and encouragement when I am with them. They avoid spending time on negative or divisive issues. Even though several of my friends and I are on very different ends of the political spectrum, we care enough about our time together that we don't allow those differences to become a wedge between us. Plus, we agree about so much more than a political issue or a social concern it would be a shame to let the disagreements sour the entire relationship. We choose to be positive with each other.

Lastly, though actually this is most important, I have made a personal promise to myself to be a better companion to my wife. After 35 years we know each other well. But, I am not the most demonstrative person when it involves " romance" stuff. Even though I know my wife craves it, I am stingy with the things that she desires. Being not much brighter than a box of rocks, I have realized that such an attitude bring down two people - her and me. And, that is just stupid. The environment around the house is so much more pleasant if I simply make the effort to give her what she needs. I do draw the line at dancing, but everything else is open for modification. Since I have taken this new tack, the Lowry household is sooo much more enjoyable.

We can't control many things in our life. Coming down with a serious disease is usually nothing we can prevent. Often our employment is in someone else's hands. Having a roof torn off in a big storm is going to happen no matter how much you wish it didn't.

But, you can control some of the things that affect your happiness. To not deal with the things you can to improve your life is, well, just silly. It took me good chunks of this year to figure out the negative triggers in my life that I wanted gone. Then, it took a matter of minutes to come up with a solution. Do you want a more satisfying life? What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking.

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  1. We ARE on the same path.
    Although I am a gluten for punishment, trying to help those who are so desperately unhappy,it never works. I am trying to push away from the table, but it is difficult.
    The more important point is the communication between my husband and me. WE talked about flowers last night- important to me- not to him. He just cannot get that I don't need the $60 bouquet from FTD- just the $5 from Walmart. I, in turn, have begun to sit through wood working shows and find that I enjoy talking the details of his latest project.
    Our lives are blending a bit better.
    The rest of our lives is a long time- and since we have chosen them during retirement....
    I found a great new blog yesterday. That mentioned taking classes at the community college for free. I am going to look into that here. I would love to start learning Spanish!

  2. Great post Bob. I too have been weeding out some blogs. Especially the ones, as you say, that make me feel bad or negative after reading them. I do all my blog reading in the early AM with my coffee, so I don't want or need to ruin my day on purpose!

    I too would love to get rid of the TV but my husband watches all those awful cable news shows. That is when I retire into my "cave" to read or scribble.

    The news and the politicians are too disturbing for words. Sometimes you just have to bury your head in the sand before it explodes!

  3. I like the old saying that goes roughly something like this:
    "You can't often change what happens in your life but what you can change is your attitude toward it"
    That is one of the reasons I like looking at life as Will Rogers taught me. He lived and talked about the Great Depression years but still managed to have fun doing it. I see you doing the same with your list here.
    As far as the relationships with your spouse again you are right on spot. This reminded me of a post I made about a year ago
    about letting others be right most of the time. My wife and I find that we were spending too much time trying to prove each other wrong. It led to some stressful times. When we put that attitude away we shed a lot of unnecessary stress.

  4. Janette,

    Communication and patience are the keys to improving relationships. But, being human, it takes us awhile to lose the ego that prevents us from doing so. Good for you and hubby.

    My wife has been to some of my ham radio conventions and at time I have helped her (not enough) with her involvement with church pageants. It has given us a little better understanding of the importance of each to us.

  5. You are approaching "guru on the mountain top" status, Bob. Great stuff. Might I also reinforce the idea of hanging around positive, "non-toxic" people? Thank goodness I am also married to one :).

    Lots of excellent ways that we can exert control over our lives - and learn to let go of fretting about that which we have no real control.


  6. Roberta,

    For full disclosure, I did add the basic level of cable (20 channels) back to our house when my daughter moved back home. But it doesn't include any of the news channels or those that pander to our lowest tastes. My use of TV remains close to nil.

    Blogs that rant or rage aren't on my plate anymore. There is absolutely no reason to subject myself to that stuff.

  7. RJ,

    One of my biggest flaws is the need to "keep score" during discussions or differences. It never works but I keep plowing the same ground.

    I'll check out your post. Knowing you, I expect some excellent insights on the subject of relationships.

  8. Banjo Steve,

    Was the "let go of fretting" a reference to a banjo? Sorry, I couldn't pass that one up.

    A deep thanks for the guru comment, but I don't think I'm even on the foothills yet, much less the mountain. Your comment is solid encouragement for my continuing journey.

  9. When the Americans freed Europe from the grips of Hitler and the Nazi's, the local people in many of the German towns that were near the gas chambers were interviewed. The world wanted to know why those townspeople did NOT know what was going on in their towns. How did they NOT know a whole nation was being destroyed?

    All they have to do is read your post today, and an answer will appear.

    You think you are doing the right thing by sparing yourself from the truth. You are instead, hiding and making your own life much worse. When you 'wake up' may just be too late. I feel sorry for you and your wife.

    Ignorance is NOT bliss.

    You don't have to post this negativity. But you, Bob, have read it.

  10. Anonymous,

    There is a huge difference between hiding from negative information and wallowing in it. Somehow, I think not reading a negative blog or a partisan rant is a bit different from ignoring the holocaust. I understand hyperbole, but your point is insulting to those who died.

    Even so I support your right to feel that way, so I am posting it and will let others decide if you have a valid point.

  11. Uh, the poster before me sounds like someone who isn't happy and can't stand it if others are. Their problem, not mine or yours.

    I too had enough w/one blogger in particular, always feeling worse from what they were spouting off about, not better, and calling their husband derrogatory names became too much for me.

    Meanwhile, yes, we can make a conscious effort to enhance our lives in a variety of ways and I stand behind you 100% in what you have done to enhance yours. I too, like you, am living a very satisfying and joyful retirement! Sandy

  12. Sandy,

    One of the useful functions of a blog is to allow someone to express feelings. That doesn't mean the reader has to agree with them, or continue to read them, however. We all have the freedom to ingest what is best for us.

    Even the person who left the previous comment has a right to be heard. That comment came close to crossing a line of disrespect and poor taste. But, I decided to post it to allow a mature discussion of the possible harm of information filtering.

    In one sense that person is right: only listening to what you agree with can lead to dangerous consequences. Of course that isn't what the post was about. But, it is important that various viewpoints are allowed visibility.

  13. If I didn't know better I would swear this is a New Year's resolution list! I agree with all the actions you are taking and you inspire me to follow suit. My husband has been retired for 3 years and I for only a few months. He was in the habit of spending way too much time watching cable news shows (out of boredom)and had become quite grumpy and argumentative. At first I argued "with" him but soon stopped and just went off to other activities to avoid the ranting. He finally came to the conclusion that he was the victim of mind pollution from all the garbage he was letting in. We now watch only enough news to know what's going on and we read the papers. We less depressed, grumpy, and anxious now. We still need to work on how to function with both us at home 24/7. Maybe I will share this post with him and see what he thinks of your list. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  14. Bob, I was a little surprised at the blogger/Anonymous who took issue with your blog. Not sure why anyone would. You have chosen to unclutter your life with things you find not fulfilling enough. Who can argue with that? The point around forging a better relationship with your spouse - that is just common sense.

    Keep up the good work and don't let that kind of negativity, which is exactly what you want out of your life, affect you for a moment. Just like Banjo Steve, I am getting to the point that I truly look forward to your missives, since they are always food for thought.

  15. Hi Bob,

    I keep up with what is going on in the world by reading a few very well-informed and well written posts. My head is not in the sand, and I am aware of what is going on in the world. However, I have stopped reading and listening to much of what is out there, as it is so distorted and taken out of context. Why get upset over it?

    It is important to remove yourself from toxic situations (if you let them affect you), whether it is a blog, a news report, or a person. It is important to stay informed, but there is something called balance.

    Something I try to do is keep things in perspective. I know there are a lot of bad things going on in the world today, but if you look at history, you will find that there have always been bad things going on, and there always will be - the things are just different or "updated". I have read many of Lincoln's and Jefferson's and Franklin's quotes, and they are as applicable today as they were then. Every generation has it's challenges. In many ways it is true that the more things change, the more things are the same. The constant is change. Worrying about it does no good. Having the ability to trust yourself to deal with whatever happens is the key to peace of mind.

  16. JaneO & Chuck Y,

    It is not a New Year's list but certainly could be! Thanks to both of you for being part of the blog family, adding your thoughts, and lending your support.

    I simply refuse to let the negativity of the world affect me, whether from a nasty comment, or the reality of what is happening all around us. That doesn't mean I don't do all I can to makes things better. It just means I leave it at the door.

  17. Donnine,

    Beautifully said...I agree with every point you make and will add nothing but my support for your thoughts.

  18. To everyone who has commented so far,

    Believe it or not, I just received a comment that accused me of "planting" the negative thoughts from the first Anonymous to generate more comments on this post.

    I am not giving that person the courtesy of a response or publishing his or her thoughts. But, please, give me a break!

  19. Bob,

    I just wanted to voice my support of you in this decision. Anyone who's aware of your work with prison ministry couldn't possibly accuse you of "ignorance" of what’s going on in the world.

    Each of us has a choice - we can choose to fill our hearts and minds with anger and toxicity, or we can choose to see the world as a place of amazing joy as well as terrible pain.

    If we choose the former, what do we have to give the world, other than more anger and bile?

    If we choose the latter, we can use the strength and balance we've achieved in our own lives in order to help those that really need it.

    Keep up the (ever-thoughtful) work!

  20. I'm with you on the ranters. I keep up with what's going on in the world, but most of it is beyond my control, so I'm usually able to let it go.

    On the home front, I try to make a difference in my community and my family. I have a few negative people around. I listen for a bit, make a neutral comment, and change the subject.

    I want to be useful in my retirement life. The more time I waste on negativity, the less I have left.

    Thanks for a great post.

  21. Bob - thank you for your blog with its ever-uplifting messaging and positive stories. There are a lot of complainers out there on-line and sitting in the cube next to us. It is important for us to spend the time we have in pursuit of worthwhile endeavors with people we want to be with. Keep on keeping on!

  22. Grahamphx & Linda,

    Isn't that the whole point of reaching a certain level of maturity in life: you can make choices on what you allow to influence you? Too many people never seem to grow up enough to understand balance and getting go.

    Thanks to both of you.

  23. Dave,

    Thanks, Dave. And kudos on your excellent posts on the US News web site. I noticed one of them a few weeks ago generated some unpleasant comments but you kept your poise and tried to turn them into positives.

  24. I have taken many of these same steps. There is enough negative energy in the world already. I am not ready to give up cable because I do like a few shows, and I love football season, but I am choosy about what I watch.

    My favorite part of your post, though, was what you said about making changes to please your wife. Such little things to one person can be so meaningful to another. Frankly, I wish my brother in law would read your post (although I hope he doesn't read this comment!). Good for you.

  25. Galen,

    She does the same for me, so it works out better for both of us.

  26. Bob, I noticed a reference to this post on another blog. Isn't is simple when it comes right down to it? Or maybe it is just me. In retirement we do what we enjoy most of the time. Those things we don't enjoy are done without thinking. I read an interview about about successful aging with Dilip Jeste, MD, a leading geriatric psychiatrist. After doing a study using mostly women over 60 years of age they discovered that people see themselves as successfully aging no matter their physical or financial situation.

    Getting rid of as much noise as possible is a wonderful idea. Friends, associates, reading material and new items need to be filtered with care. Of course, I think you are probably a bright shining example for people. You have the drill down.

    Be well.


  27. b,

    Thanks for the compliment but I see myself as simply a work in progress with enough free to time blog about it.

    I wish I could do what you do: half the year in Portland and half in Arizona. That remains an elusive goal, restrained by budget, needing to be near my Dad, and wanting to be near my daughters and grandkids.

  28. Hi, Bob... Good post. I think that your point about being a better companion to your wife is wonderful. It is, as you say, something that you can control, and the dividends it pays are enormous. Great point.

    Regarding your point about spending time with people who enrich your life, that to is key. Some years ago, I read, "A man is whatever he thinks about all day long." And what more than one's companions might influence day-ling thought? Bill

  29. Bill,

    Sometimes we don't have much of a choice with the type of people we must interact with. But, when we can you are exactly right: those who we spend time with shape our attitude.

    Also, thanks for leaving a comment on my article on the web site.

  30. Love this post, Bob! What you focus on grows. Negativity sucks up good energy, so why feed that beast? It's not hard to keep up with the world. Headlines are everywhere, even without extended cable. Interesting that the blast came in anonymously, but not surprising.

    I also love the relationship strategy. In one of his early books, Dr. Phil McGraw said, "Do you want to be right or get what you want and need?" That's the mantra for living together in my books. Win/win for both of you. We have a similar scenario in our house, only it's DH's sailing habit. I've agreed to join him in Chicago for Strictly Sail (boat show...ugh), and we'll spend the weekend at the Westin. I love the Heavenly Bed, and what's not to like about Michigan Ave? :)

    Keep up the good work. I enjoy your blog!

  31. Hope,

    The few negatives that I receive are virtually all left without a name so I don't pay them too much attention.

    Keeping score is a very human trait but never works in a marriage. Now, if I could just learn to dance!

  32. I hate the thought that our children and grandchildren will not enjoy the things that this country has offered my generation, and we do have the time now in our retirement for political activism. But politics drives me crazy. So I have chosen the joyful, simple life that I crave, but I feel a little guilty for not doing more to clean up the mess.

    By the way, dancing truly makes your heart sing - give it a try.

  33. Judy,

    I understand your frustration completely because I feel it too. I was part of the 1960's active generation. I marched on Washington against the Vietnam war and helped occupy the administration building at Syracuse University. Eventually, the country's mindset changed and the war was ended, the Civil Rights Act was passed and our politicians understood that when the people speak that loudly they had better listen, no matter what the lobbyists want.

    We are nowhere near that mindset in this country yet. With sales on Black Friday up 26%, too many folks are only focusing on consumption and their little corner of the world.

    Until I sense that Washington understands how off kilter they are, and the average citizen cares enough to push for change, I am like you. I live the simple life, spend lots of hours volunteering to help just-released prisoners, and focus on my family, my religion, and doing as little damage as I can to the earth.

    Maybe someday I'll be back on the barricades!