December 13, 2013

Looking Back: Tracking the Passage of Time and a Life

Before I began blogging I kept journals. There was never any systematic approach. I'd feel the urge to keep a record of a vacation, or the start of a new year would prompt me to start daily entries and I would begin writing my thoughts into a small notebook. Most lasted only three or four months before I stopped.

Every once in awhile I look back at my notes from five, ten, 15 or even 20 years ago. It is amazing to me how consistent my feelings, reactions, fears, and goals have been over that period of time. The same things that bothers or pleases me today, bothered and pleased me in 1992, a full nine years before retirement. I stopped journaling in 2009, and one year later began Satisfying Retirement.

There are some entries from various years and events that I thought might be interesting to share . They give an insight into my motivations and thought process before I stopped working, and then into the first several years of retirement.

In 1998 I wrote the following to myself after a verbal blowup at a meeting:

*I must slow down and proceed cautiously when change is involved.
*I must not rush to do something but take the time to assess the situation completely
*I must realize that I threaten the comfort zone of some older guys, so I must proceed with caution and sensitivity.
*I don't have all the answers and have a lot to learn 

A few months later I noted:
I seem to be standing on the sidelines of my life at a time when there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't be in there swinging. Possible reasons?
  • fear of failure
  • laziness
  • lack of passion or motivation
  • lack of focus
  • lack of knowledge
  • lack of coherent plan


Many of these same concerns and analysis reappearing in the journals entries of February of 2000, January 2001, and while on a vacation in Tuscany, Italy in 2006.


As we approach the New Year, I wanted to see what I thought at the same point in my past. An entry on December 31, 2000 gave me a stark reminder of how far off the path to a satisfying retirement I was 13 years ago:
2000 - a year I'd just as soon forget. The business (my radio consulting business) finally wound down to virtually nothing, we were forced to get ready to move to a smaller home, Betty had to take a job she disliked at JC Penney's because we need the money, I ended up working as a glorified waiter for a local focus group research company, one daughter wants to move away from family to San Diego, the other is so overworked she is not happy.
On the positive side Betty had one of her better years, health wise, the rest of us avoided any major illnesses, Mom and Dad stayed relatively healthy, I became much more involved in church, I became trained as a Stephen Minister leader, after some rough patches our marriage seemed to stabilize. 

I began to notice a real difference beginning in 2004 in what I was writing. While I still had the normal rants about my failures and shortcomings in certain areas, the overall attitude was much better. After three years of retirement I guess I had begun to figure it out. I was looking more at gaps in my life as opportunities instead of failures. The pressures of watching my business die were gone, and a realization that time could be a friend and not an enemy was apparent in my entries. This one from 2005 seems to be a good place to close:
Make an cultivate a few close friends, stay in touch with people, give of myself, read widely, exercise regularly, turn off the TV, fight the rut of routine. leave time for leisure, have more fun, take up a hobby or pastime that gets me outdoors. Eat less, laugh more, quit fussing, encourage at least one person per day. Plant a garden, put real plants in the house, Trust God for something that seems impossible, Loosen up on the intensity. Stop taking myself so seriously.
Start today.

Guess what, that list works just as well in late 2013 as it did eight years ago. Retirement and living well is a process. I am glad you and I are taking the trip together. 

22 comments:

  1. Bob,

    This post really struck a cord with me. I also kept journals for many years, but I've fallen away from the habit in the last four or five years. I love to write, and the journals were a way to provide an outlet. When my daughter graduated from high school, I created a small book of my musings, thoughts, feelings, and experiences from the time I learned I was pregnant right up until graduation day. Needless to say, she has treasured it for years and it was one of my most rewarding efforts. I want to do that again!

    It takes a commitment to check and write about positive and not-so-positive happenings and how they affect us. Now that I'm at a different point in my life, I'm ready to start journaling again.

    Thank you for a very timely reminder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I may pick up the habit again if I can figure how to write more than just the mundane events of the day. After I have been journaling for awhile I tend to simply record what happened instead of adding any insights or conclusions. That type of diary keeping isn't what I want a journal to be.

      As you know, a thoughtful journal is an important keepsake. Let us know how your efforts go.

      Delete
  2. Bob I am impressed with the ability that your younger self had to recognize the issues and make a plan to change them. It is good to journal/blog because it provides so many good benefits but especially it allows us to see our own growth and development . How we change with the passage of time. Without a journal the early days are lost in memory and we have nothing to compare our new evolved selves to and to see how far we have come.

    It is funny that very little changes between the old days you wrote about and now. Just a grand acceptance of what is. with a good dose of positive spirit and what seemed wrong is right again.

    Great post! It really made me think.l

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were many events 10, 15, 20 years ago that I had forgotten about. They were so important at the time but have slipped away under the weight of time. I am glad there was a way to revisit those times to remind me of parts of my journey, both good and bad.

      I was most surprised with the consistency of key points over the years. I guess once our core beliefs are established they are part of us from that point forward.

      Delete
  3. It is amazing sometimes how writing something down helps to clarify your thoughts. The struggles you mention along the way are common to most I would venture. What is not so common is the constant effort to improve and move forward that you share. Congratulations, keep up the good work and thank you for sharing your journey!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I ever needed a reminder that a problem identified is not necessarily fixed, re-reading these journals was it. Struggles remain, don't they?

      Thanks, Dave.

      Delete
  4. I reread my journals recently also. The same themes reveal themselves from 15 years ago. Some things have changed, but my list making, complaints about other people, and obsession with nonexistent health concerns continued for many years. Some of them are still with me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Odd isn't it...so many things remain unchangeable even though life seems like it never stands still.

      Delete
  5. You hit the nail on the head when it comes to building a great retirement (or a great life): Look at gaps in your life as opportunities instead of failures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. At some point you'd expect fewer gaps, but I guess that's not the way life works! Thanks, Tom, and have a great weekend

      Delete
  6. Interesting post, Bob. I have thought about starting to write down events from my life, a journal if you will, since I have had a lot of interesting experiences over the years. Must be something we all start to think about as we realize we are well into the second half of our life. And I appreciate you laying out there some of the tough patches from a decade or so ago; not always easy.

    About the only journal that I kept was when I was a serious mountain climber in the 70s in CO. We were pretty stoned when I did my writings from tents on mountaintops, and the ink would begin to go away from the intense cold. Not as dramatic as yours, but a mildly interesting view into a bygone era.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that journal from your stoned period would be fun to read.

      After going through this experience I'm pretty sure a new journal would have lots of the same concerns. I'd have to take a different approach to make the process worth the time.

      Delete
  7. I started my Gratitude Journals in '98. In the beginning it was really hard. Trying to find 5 things you were grateful for. My dogs always made the list, and some days just breathing or waking up were on it. It did get better, and it accomplished the objective...focus on what's right in your life and you'll find more of it. It's so true. I've found myself journaling less since I started blogging, but it always brings me back to what matters.
    When I'm no longer on this planet my family will definitely have lots to read about me! I'm fine with that. I think I've made the same forward moves and back steps you did. It's the writing that keeps us on track!
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I stumbled across a few entries where I was less than gracious with family members, but I don't want to take them out. They are part of my story, warts and all.

      I did keep a few different gratitude journals over the years. That might be a good place to restart.

      Delete
  8. I have always done the same thing.... not really a continuous journal, but just now and then pouring it all out on paper. Usually ending up with changes I wanted to make in myself and my life. Just shows that we are all in this together. Your earlier lists do not look as I would have suspected. You have obviously had success in finding your way. As for me... I am still a work in progress... I hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this exercise proved beyond a shadow of a doubt I am definitely a work in progress, with a fair amount of repeats along the way.

      Delete
  9. My friend, a retired U.S. Marine Band member, passed away in 2009 at the age of 92. He kept a journal and opened a new blank book for each year. Just before he passed away, he told his wife to toss them. Gone forever. He had kept a daily journal since before World War II. His thought was "no one would ever want to read them". Fortunately, he wrote what he called "articles" of his experiences in the Marine Band and his time in the U.S. Army during WW2. I wrote his biography based on his articles. I wish he'd given me his journals. Don't ever toss them, Bob. You are unique in writing and keeping them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just made room on a cabinet shelf for them all. I still have another half dozen to finish looking at. Just before dinner tonight I read the one from 1993 when our family went to Maui for Christmas. That was a great trip with a 14 and 13 year old who still loved to spend time with mom & dad.

      Yes, it is a loss that your friend got rid of them. I imagine there were some fabulous stories.

      Delete
  10. Bob, my journal has taken a back seat to blogging and Shutterfly photo journaling during the past couple of years, but I still enjoy reading them this time of year. While these new outlets don't help me sort through confusion, or bare my soul, they do provide a great way to explore and chronicle my life right now. Fortunately, I seem to have less confusion to sort through as I enjoy my retirement years.

    The ink is beginning to fade on some of the ones from the early 90's. One day soon I will have to scan them onto a disc so my daughter will be able to have a good chuckle when I am gone. My angst over being a new mom fills several volumes!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When my blogging period ends, as it will at some point, I will need to find something to keep my need to write satisfied and journals may be the answer. Like you, I found my old journals were quite candid in looking at my failures and frustrations, subjects not rally appropriate for a very public blog.

      Delete
  11. Very interesting post. I've journaled periodically, but when I went back to read those journals, I was not impressed. So many writings were so painful, I just shredded them. For whatever reason, earlier parts of my life were not horrible, just not comfortable & re-reading the information brought it all back. The one useful result of reading past history was that I realized a couple of things: 1) I didn't particularly want anyone else to read all that junk & 2) I really have worked on a lot of my issues & am in a much better place today than I ever thought possible at this age. I consider that a success.

    I think I will begin writing a gratitude journal; I'm guessing among the other benefits that will have for me is a less harsh, more loving perspective on some situations on my past.

    This post, like many of yours, made me stop & think. I appreciate that!

    pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have made a important point, Pam. Journaling can be a very therapeutic tool to help someone work through problems and life's difficulties. Once they have accomplished that the writings have served their purpose and probably need to be left alone. It is important that you are aware of the positive moves in your life and feel no need to dredge up the bad times.

      Like you, I am looking at a gratitude journal for 2014. I have so much to be thankful for. In the past I have found keeping such a journal helps me keep my focus outside myself and see a wider world .

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted