December 12, 2012

Deciding What Matters: Looking At The Big Picture

The October/November issue of AARP's "The Magazine" had an article that caught my eye: Bette Midler talking about dreams, destiny, and what matters. In addition to her music, she has won honors for her work in movies and on the Broadway stage. As she approaches 70 she isn't slowing down. In fact, her new movie with Billy Crystal opens on Christmas day. I thought several of her comments seem to fit a satisfying retirement well.

*Life is not your personal express lane. For someone in show business I imagine that was a lesson that didn't come easily. Stars of her caliber are used to a lifestyle that we can only imagine. But, most of us do finally grasp the reality of a world filled with 7 billion other people. Regardless of how successful, talented, lucky, or gifted, a large percentage of the rest of the world could care less. 

Our best path lies in balancing our needs and desires with a sensitivity to others. I am living proof that someone who was self-absorbed and rather insensitive  can actually develop a growing sense of empathy and compassion for others. It is a work in progress but has helped me put much of my life past, present, and future into a more realistic perspective. There are other people out there. Who knew?

*The big world is better than your little one. It is very easy for us to get so wrapped up in our problems and day-to-day life that we forget there is a big, fascinating world out there. Shaking up our routine with travel certainly helps. So does exposing ourselves to new ideas and different kinds of people.

I am convinced that many of the problems in this country and around the globe would be much less severe if folks weren't so convinced they have all the answers. There is nothing more dangerous than a mind closed to any new input. 

*You can't always be "on." For us, that means you can't always be available. You can't accept every request for your time. You can't volunteer for everything. You can't be running at full throttle all the time.

There is an absolute need in all of us to turn off every once in awhile. Relax, unplug, un-commit. Be unavailable for a time. Allow yourself to be tired, grumpy, or unsociable occasionally. We all need a time when we are "off."

*It is OK to let go of a dream. In the article Bette says a dream is just that: a dream. There comes a time when reality must take over. Will I ever play guitar with Paul McCartney? Not likely. Will I move to an island in the South Pacific and spend my remaining days writing the great American novel. No.

Dreams and goals are what keep us moving forward. They add spice to our daily existence. But, they are no substitute for dealing with life as it is. If a dream has outlived its usefulness, then dream a new dream. Don't let a missed dream freeze you in place.

I've always enjoyed "The Divine Miss M" for her brassy, take no prisoners attitude. This article seemed perfect for her....and us.


  1. Bob, dreams and goals are indeed what keep us moving forward. Several years ago our daughter went abroad to study for 5 months. Knowing that I would miss her terribly, Malcolm planned a series of things to "look forward to," for that five months, up to the day that we would board a ship and make the crossing to meet her in Spain.

    We have continued that practice ever sense. It is truly the small stuff that makes retirement satisfying for us. If the plan gets too complicated, we take our eye off the big picture, and if it's too lax, we are unfulfilled. Maintaining balance is our on-going struggle.

    "Miss M" offers some sound life lessons. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Balance and mid-course corrections...good ideas for Bette and us.

  2. Replies
    1. I agree, Roberta. It is important to know when to dream a new dream and set new goals. Our dream of owning an RV has become reality. Now we need a new dream to keep us moving forward.

  3. A timely post.Ken and I are making some concrete plans for retirement now.We downsized, moved into a smaller home this summer.. and THAT change overwhelmed us for a bit. Now, we're settled in, and playing around with what dreams are realistic, which ones were pipe dreams, and where and how how we truly want to spend retirement. It's a lot of decisions! (And we are blessed and privileged to have choices, we know that..)

    A dream we have ALWAYS HAD was to move to the mountains of N.Arizona in retirement, and we are beginning to find ways to make it happen, and a flexible time schedule..

    I like all the comments about being open in attitude, relaxing more! and remembering to hang out with ALL KINDS of people, not just ones who think exactly as you do.

    As always,Bob, your posts make us think! ANd keep us excited about the retirement adventure ahead!

    1. A pipe dream means a fantastic notion or vain hope. We all have them and all need to replace them at some point.

      I wish you the best of luck with the N. Arizona dream. Betty and I like Flagstaff a lot and now have the ability to spend more time there with the RV. Prescott is also a great retirement town. If you like small town Strawberry and Alpine are picture perfect.

  4. I like the concept of letting go of a dream. It's similar to letting go of who you were during career days. In retirement we achieve a certain type of equity where nobody cares whether you had a brilliant career. We have the opportunity to remake ourselves as we take on the challenge of living our last chapter. As we make new friends, learn new skills, and enjoy the hobbies that we had no time for in the past, we change and grow. We can let go of who we were during a career and focus on who we are becoming during retirement.
    Be well, Jeanette

    1. You are so right about letting go and retirement. No one has asked me about what I did for a living for years. They are much more interested in what I do to stay engaged and busy during retirement. My radio past is just that, past and mostly forgotten.

  5. I have always liked Bette Midler since the 70s (even my 30+ daughter cites "The Rose" as one of her favorite movies ever, so she appealed to that generation as well). A couple of comments:

    -I also found myself self-absorbed for a long period of time; companies and work in general seem to be very effective at bringing that out in us. But over the years I have found that doing for others really does bring much happiness, so I have become an effective charitable contributor for some time now.

    -As far as having all the answers, I continue to go by the mantra "I never learn anything by opening my mouth". As true today as when it was first spoken.

    -I have learned, like yourself, to just say no to too many distractions. You can still be wired but selective. For example, I have a smartphone, multiple desktop and laptops systems, a large tablet, as well as a Playbook tablet for use with the smartphone. Each is used as a complement, but not to necessarily run my life. In many ways they allow me to accomplish much, much more than I would be able to otherwise, but it is still important to draw boundaries.

    -I too let go of certain dreams, but replaced them with others that are more accessible. A move, certain trips, etc were/are still dreams, but much more achievable. I think that is the difference, letting go of unachievable or unrealistic goals, as you said.

    BTW, Midler's original version of "Do You Wanna Dance" is one of the best female songs ever. Certainly one of her sexiest, but still classy and well done.

    1. i recently re-watched "For The Boys" where she did a fabulous job as a WWII signer.

      I was on one of my prison ministry trips today and was talking with my mentee about how long I spent being self-absorbed and full of myself. Flying First Class, making good money and having people hire you for your expertise is not good for maturity or self-growth.

  6. A good post for end of year and beginning of new year reflection.

    1. Thanks, Jasmina. I have had a very productive and interesting 2012 but I am looking forward to 2013.

  7. Oh, I'm a big fan, too. So how wonderful that you used her own lessons to offer lessons for all of us. I've encountered a few celebrities who didn't believe their own hype--great people.

    My most memorable encounter was with Bill Cosby's wife Camille, and their children, including the son who later tragically died. I had dinner with them at the American ambassador's home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. I should point out that I am NOT a celebrity and just happened to be invited because I knew someone who knew someone. They were in Africa because Camille was taking her children on a learning tour of African art and history. Talk about hands on learning. And along the way, they were donating to various groups and communities. What a great way to use wealth, I thought.

    It was a small gathering and so I got to visit with them all through dinner. They were so gracious, and my gosh, those kids were all so poised and polite. I think they all modeled the Divine Miss M's lessons.

    1. What a great story!

      You asked on your blog about where you should go in the coming year. With the life you have lead and stories like this you should have no problem filling a year's worth of posts.

      It is nice to hear such a positive story about celebrity families. BTW, Billy and Bette have a new movie opening on Christmas Day that looks quite entertaining.

  8. I'm a huge fan of Bette's. I've seen her live twice over the years and she never disappoints. What she's done with parks in NYC is phenomenal. She's brassy and bawdy but one of the most real people ever to survive show business.

    I recently saw her interview with Oprah and again felt her honesty. We can all be better for our family, friends, and ourselves, if we adopt her honest approach to living.

    1. I have never seen Bette perform but would love to. Her start in the bathhouses of NYC never hinted at the mega star she would become.

  9. Steve in Los AngelesWed Dec 12, 09:40:00 PM MST

    It is quite appropriate that you mention Bette Midler and the value of dreams. I also want to mention the lyrics to one of the greatest songs she recorded and one of my favorite songs of all time (in addition to "Climb Every Mountain" from the movie version of "The Sound of Music"), "The Rose":
    The Rose Lyrics - Bette Midler song

    Some say love, it is a river
    That drowns the tender reed
    Some say love, it is a razor
    That leaves your soul to bleed
    Some say love, it is a hunger
    An endless aching need
    I say love, it is a flower
    And you, its only seed

    It's the heart, afraid of breaking
    That never learns to dance
    It's the dream, afraid of waking
    That never takes the chance
    It's the one who won't be taken
    Who cannot seem to give
    And the soul, afraid of dying
    That never learns to live

    When the night has been too lonely
    And the road has been too long
    And you think that love is only
    for the lucky and the strong
    Just remember in the winter
    Far beneath the bitter snow
    Lies the seed
    That with the sun's love, in the spring
    Becomes the rose

    Lyrics and Song Music by Amanda Mc Broom
    Music lyrics for non-commercial use only
    and are copywrited property of others.
    The Rose Song Lyrics Information
    The Rose was recorded by Bette Midler in 1979
    It is appropriate to let go of certain dreams when those dreams no longer are realistic. However, it is good to create new dreams that have possibilities. For example, I have dreams of selling (eventually) my current residence and purchasing and owning a beautiful home in the Westside area of Los Angeles.

  10. I'm still back here,contemplating all the good thoughts in this post! 2013 right around the corner.. much to think about! Wanted to share-- I use an old Richard Simmons Dance Your Pants Off exercise DVD and it finished up with a woman singing that song "the Rose" while we do the "cool down" stretches.. it is a fabulous way to start my day!!

    Your last few posts, up to today s(Friday) are soooo much food for thought ,Bob. I also enjoy all the people who comment.. good luck with your own end of the year thoughts-- with that RV, you and Betty have exciting open new vistas ahead!!

    (Have you noticed how making ONE CHANGE often opens the door to a whole slew of OTHER ONES...???)

    1. Thanks, Madeline (and Ken!) for becoming a valuable part of my blogging family this year.

      I totally agree: one change brings about the option for all sorts of other adjustments and opportunities.