May 1, 2017

Letting Go: How Do You Know When It's Time?

Is sunset the end of something or the beginning of something else?

A few weeks ago comments left on the post, Saying Goodbye to The RV Lifestyle, prompted me to write this one. The questions centered on knowing when it is time to let go of something in one's life, when an attachment to something should be severed. When do we know it is time to let go of whatever it is that may be holding us back? I thought those were very important queries to think about and worthy of some discussion.

We are creatures of habit. Most of us are happy when our world is settled, and predictable. This doesn't mean we aren't active and involved, rather we have some anchors in our existence that are comforting. I would suggest that even those who travel a lot each year still need the security of a home base, a familiar place where they can refresh and recoup. 

But, when is it time to let go of a part of our life that has been dependable up to now? How do we know when it is time to cut the cord and move part of our life in a different direction? See if you agree with some of my conclusions.

*Relationship problems: Though letting go of a bad marriage or problem-plagued engagement would qualify, today I am thinking more along the lines of friendships and acquaintances. All of us have had situations where we dread meeting with someone we know, or we always seem to leave their presence feeling worse than when we arrived. Certain folks have a dark cloud over their head that follows them wherever the go. If you are near them, that dark cloud covers you too. Negativity, projectile complaining, gossiping to harm others....being with these people drains you.

It may be tough, but you know it is time to let go of this relationship when you dread the time spent together. Cut the cord, for your own sake.

* Living situation: There has been a lot written on Satisfying Retirement about downsizing, aging in place or moving to a retirement community. Honestly, I think one of the tougher "Letting Go" questions involves this topic. Most of us have an attachment to our home. It could be based on longevity, a sense of community, a place for all your stuff, a mark of your independence, or the house where your kids were raised. Whatever the reason, knowing when it is time to move because of health or family issues is not easy. 

My personal marker will be when I feel staying where I am risks my life, or forces a responsibility on my kids that I do not want them to endure. Would they take care of Betty or me? In a heartbeat. But, we have made the firm decision that we don't want that to happen. Letting go of our current lifestyle will be tough, but we are committed to that choice. 

* Vacation and travel decisions: Making the decision to sell our RV was really triggered by two factors: the expenses of keeping the motorhome, and the desire to explore more of the world while we can. We have decided to abandon one way of traveling, and take up another. We have loved the freedom the motorhome has given us. But, once we discussed a change, we decided within just a few days to make the change. 

Betty and I are lucky. We have been able to go to Europe twice, taken cruises, and fallen in love with Hawaii after at least a dozen trips to the islands. So, we have experiences with something other than auto or RV trips. That's what we want to experience again. In this case, letting go was easy. 

* Driving: I have left the hardest example of letting go until now. In the car-based culture of most of the western world, the ability to take yourself from one place to another, when you choose, is considered a basic right, not a privilege. The independence signified by that vehicle in the carport or street is almost impossible to quantify. Even if it is rarely driven, the point is it can be driven, by you.

Yet, we all know there will come a time when the car keys must be taken away. The unacceptable risk, not only to yourself, but to other drivers and pedestrians, demands action. I am sure there are all sorts of studies that show we believe we are much better drivers, at any age, than we really are. Reality has a different measurement scale. Letting go of the car keys, even voluntarily, is very hard. 

Don't make it tougher than it must be. Don't force a family member to be the one to take away the keys. That is your job. (Click here for a web site that has an excellent overview of this problem). 

20 comments:

  1. Great post on letting go. Letting go of the house? We have a different plan then you, but when my kids say it is time, I hope I listen. I am praying that the driverless car is around by the time I need to let go of keys. Vacationing? We are saving for travel with one family or the other every year. They need the "babysitter" and we are happy to just enjoy the places instead of rushing around to see the sites.
    There is also the idea of putting friends "on a shelf". My mom has a group of friends she did not have any interaction with for almost thirty years. Instead of writing each other off they touched base yearly through cards. They all reconnected in the last fifteen years. Those people, often negative Nancys in the past, have become the closest part of support through their "golden years".
    I know my husband was never close to his brother. Both felt judged by the other. They now speak once a week.
    On the other side I have a relative who has "written off" everyone whom she feels she has nothing in common or is negative about her point of view. I am sad that there is so much she could both contribute to and be a part of in the next generation. "Be careful what you wish for" was my grandmother's favorite saying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point about the driverless car development. That could extend the freedom that autos provide for several years past the stage when it is safe to drive oneself.

      Thanks for the examples of relationships that rebounded from past problems. Of course, those are to be encouraged. At the same time, we have to be able to cut the toxic ones out of our life.

      Delete
  2. I have been thinking through some of these issues that have come up due to health issues of my husband. It is comforting to read your words as we make adjustments to our life. We still can do lots that we love but somethings we are letting go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best of luck and outcomes as you go through some tough decisions. At some point we are all faced with a winnowing of what we can do, but that doesn't make it any easier. Rest assured you and hubby will find the best path forward.

      Delete
  3. Talk about thought provoking at this time of our lives! My spouse and I never did have a huge group of friends but over the years we have slimmed down the list probably too much in some peoples' opinions but we did get rid of the toxic nagging user type friends who just weren't on the same page as we are and feel freer for having done so. We are starting to go camping again, just the two of us, after camping with our kids for 20 years. We don't have a lot of money so traveling the world is out of the realm for us but we have done some must do trips for us, Alaskan cruise, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Disney twice, while we were able to get out and enjoy all the sites and sounds of such places. We still have a couple of places within Canada that we want to go (Churchill to see the polar bears and beluga whales and the East Coast) but we'll see how both our health and finances can handle them. Otherwise in the summer we're fine with heading to campgrounds within a two or three hour travel time of our home and in the winter we were never "hot weather" travelers anyway so that's not an issue. Our home was bought 30 plus years ago keeping in mind that we could age gracefully here although we may have to hire the neighbourhood kids or our grandkids to mow the lawn as we have a large yard. The house is small, not many stairs, easy care. We recently put a new roof on, new flooring, redid the bathroom and updated the kitchen, all things that are necessary and best done when we can do it ourselves and not struggle financially to have it done. Driving? Hmmm. Well, we live outside a main city so we drive drive drive to get everything done but that said there is a reason why taxis were invented! I know our kids would have no problem driving us anywhere at any time. We know someone who currently is undergoing serious health issues (seizures!!) who refuses to get proper care because she has had her licence taken away once already due to the seizures and doesn't want it taken away again - which for sure it will be with six to eight seizures a year! Her reasoning is that if her husband who is a decade older than her has issues she needs to be able to drive. Never mind she might take out some innocent kid or parent if she has a seizure while she's driving - that's not a consideration for her! Sadly she's not the only one with that attitude. Personally, as I said, we'll have to set aside transportation money if the time comes that we have to hand over the keys!

    That said, we just hope our health holds out for the next 20 or 30 years that we have ahead of us and we'll just have to deal with the changes, either going gently or kicking and screaming - depending on the day - HaHa! Thanks again for your post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your excellent summary of your situation in some key areas we all must address.

      Taxis, Uber or Lyft, yes there are alternatives to driving. Friends, relatives, even the local senior center or bus system might have transportation options. I understand the response of the woman with seizures, but she is being quite selfish. The question she isn't asking is what does her husband do when she is injured or worse while driving?

      My wife and I have made this year the year we stay home and enjoy quiet times with ourselves, family and friends, find joy in the stuff near us, and save money for a more aggressive travel schedule in 2018. So, far after 4 months we have not second guessed that decision.

      Delete
  4. Dave's dad loved to drive his big old caddy. Taking his car keys when he was 92 was difficult. He probably shouldn't have been driving that long anyway but, he didn't travel far at that time. I dread going through it, or I should say, putting my own kids through it. So we will try to be diligent. Ironically our move to Cape May may not have been the smartest considering the local health care here but, it's only a short helicopter ride to Philly. Retirement is meant to be a time when you can relax and do what makes you happy and that's why we made the move. Now we just have to be aware when the next move creeps up on us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get the sense that you and Dave have found a sense of community in your new, smaller home town. The positives outweigh fewer options. The health care issue is one I wouldn't have thought about, though. Cape May is somewhat isolated. Good news, some major cities aren't far away.

      I really don't have a clue how I will react to the loss of my car keys. I have never been a big car guy. It is strictly transportation for me. I relish the days when I don't have to leave the house and deal with traffic. So, maybe I will welcome the excuse to not drive. That may be overly optimistic, but who knows. As driverless cars become more common maybe it will be moot.

      Delete
  5. Interesting topic. I have a friend right now that I've known for years, but she has become a non-stop "talk about herself" person and frankly, I thought of her (and my decreased energy after seeing her) when I read your first bullet point. Rather than cut her off, I've limited my time with her, and I find she tends to listen at least a bit when we've not together so much.

    The driving problem is a tough one. I just drove 8 hours each way (and again, 10 days later) to get my mom and her husband for a visit. He definitely shouldn't be driving anymore, but because they live in a small city and he's been there most of his life, he does OK. And, like several of the older generation in my family, as his driving comes to an end, he bought himself a new shiny vehicle. One of my late uncles actually walked to the Ford dealer and bought a new car that he parked in his garage defiantly the day after he lost his license for good. It sat there unused until he died. Hopefully we will be more open to reality when we hit that place.

    As for housing, we know we'll have to hire our large yard done at some point, and I think we'll move to a smaller place at some point. I know if I am widowed, I won't be keeping up this place alone, as much as I would miss it.
    --Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The car comment is so right. My dad wanted to buy a new car for the last year we allowed him to drive. He knew he only drove a mile or two a day inside the community where he lived, but insisted the old Toyota needed to be replaced.

      We were just as insistent that he couldn't afford it (which he could have quite easily). That approach worked and when he gave up his license at 88, that Toyota was a gift to a granddaughter. She drove it without a problem for another 5 years until it gave up the ghost.

      But, buying a car after losing your licence just to have it in the garage is a new one for me. That shows spunk!

      Delete
  6. Well, letting go is an issue for me. I recently realized that, by limiting my contact with a difficult friend, I was sending mixed messages. So my new m.o. is to be pleasant when contacted, but not reach out. Is that still a cop out? Maybe.

    Definitely stayed in a couple of jobs too long. I am working on letting go of more stuff that I don't use. Not real attached to houses or cars, but not driving will be a tough nut.

    No longer travel due to arthritis, but so glad I did when able. Which reminds me that it's important to focus on what you can do. Tomorrow may be too late.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is so important to travel while you can, if that is important to you. Betty and I are definitely aware of my parents' history of waiting too long and then cancelling several trips that mom was too ill to take. As you say, tomorrow may be too late.

      Delete
  7. Excellent article and very timely for me as I am on the brink of making some decisions about retiring. Thank you for sharing your reflections.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I too am dealing with the idea of letting go of my work life. I've also noticed that I've been letting go of acquiring more stuff. I couldn't figure out why I no longer have the desire to shop, not that shopped much. I recently realized that I have "enough". So maybe that's the same way I'm feeling about my work... I've had enough. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting observation about shopping and letting go of work. That makes sense since we are aware of the likely decrease in income and as we spend more time around our home we realize how much "stuff" we already have.

      Delete
  9. I am doing my usual spring decluttering in our too-large house and wishing there were an affordable, smaller alternative here in the Seattle area. Glad for our much smaller place in Tucson where we spend the winter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back from your volunteer work in Greece. I know you love it and the organization counts on you.

      If you found a smaller house in Seattle, the move and downsizing would be a nasty chore, I bet. I just watched a Tiny House show based in a Seattle suburb, but I doubt you and Art are ready for something smallerthan the Tucson Park Model.

      Delete
  10. My dad, in the last year of his life when he knew that he was terminally ill, traded in his big old boat of a car that he loved. He replaced it with a little Ford Focus. Although a small car was not to his taste, he was thinking ahead to my mom's needs after he was gone and no longer able to drive her places. My mom never had learned to drive, and his hope was that she might find the courage to learn to drive a smaller more modest car. He did many things in that last year to provide for my mom's future wellbeing. He was a loving and generous man.

    Jude

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a perfect example of love and concern. That is a tremendous memory and example for any of us.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted