October 6, 2017

Our Preconceptions: Any Worth A Revisit?


A few weeks ago I asked you to think about some of your preconceptions in a few areas to decide if any needed to be changed or adjusted. One of the best features of retirement is the ability to reshape how you approach your life. We have the time and freedom to do so. I promised to give each area from the original list the same consideration and report on my thoughts about attitudes that have changed, and those where I struggle. here are my responses to some of them.

Aging


Getting older doesn't really bother me. There is nothing I can do about it anyway. I do dislike intensely the erosion of my physical self. I do what I can to minimize the problems. But, to complain how unfair it is and insist my 68 year old body be the same as my 38 or 48 year old body is a waste of energy. 

I think society's view of older people is improving. Maybe it is because there are so many of us! I hope the stereotype of the grumpy old man or woman can be relegated to the history books. 

I don't fear death but I do fear what my death will mean to those I love. 


People Not Like Us


In this area I continue to struggle with preconceptions. As much as I'd like to think this is not the case, I catch myself feeling uncomfortable or extra vigilent around people not like me, people of different races or skin colors. I am disappointed in this reaction.

Even though virtually everyone under 35 seems to have tattoos, I form an opinion about someone with lots of visible body ink, based solely on appearance and that is wrong.

I think ( maybe hope is a better word) I have changed how I perceive those who have a different spiritual choice than I. Honestly, I am more repelled by those who use religion as a blunt end instrument to threaten others who don't believe exactly what they do than any basic choice another human being makes. I believe my faith is true, but I hope I am not judgmental toward others with another set of beliefs. What if I am wrong?


Defining Success


In the original post I noted that all the trappings of success I believed to be important while a younger man no longer apply. Today, success is something I measure internally. Making a new friend, making one of my grandkids smile, remembering to be nice to a clerk or service worker...those are a measure of success for me now. 


Being Remembered


As I wrote in the original post, the career success and notoriety in my industry ended quite quickly after retirement. I thought my "name" would remain well known for much longer than it did. I was very wrong. If that was how I hoped to be remembered, then I lost that battle.

Now, my wish is much closer to home: I would like to be remembered for what I have done for my family. I hope I have been supportive and encouraging to my daughters. I would like to be remembered for 41 years of marriage and counting. I would like to be remembered as someone who was honest, dependable, and loyal (sounds like the Boy Scout oath!).

The material success, the money in the bank, the pleasant lifestyle, even this blog (sorry!) are unimportant if I fail to be remembered as a man who could be counted on by those who are depended on him.


Obviously, not all opinions formed earlier in life are wrong or need to be changed. Some are the bedrock of our character But, preconceptions that need to be jettisoned are sometimes very tough to dislodge. We are creatures of habit. As noted above my life is a work in progress.


I would love your thoughts on any of these areas that you feel comfortable sharing.



28 comments:

  1. I have a plaque in my laundry room which says "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today". I think it is good to reflect on my past and grow from it....however, I can't change it. However, I have been blessed with Today! I can shape it, fill it and savor it using the gifts God has blessed me with and the things I have learned and honed from my past.
    I love your take on all of the things you said in this post. Isn't it wonderful to have had the time to have had these experiences called life...no wonder our bodies are changing...we have had so many things to remold them and still we persevere!
    I don't know what I will be remembered for....but I have today to be kind, learn and share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looking back seems to serve two purposes: to show us how we have changed, for better or the worse, and to remind us of our blessings today. Otherwise, living in the past is a waste of time.

      Delete
  2. I agree that, in the end, family and very close friends are those who remember us. I try to relate my grandfather's love, my dad's whimsical personality, my Nana's determination to my grandchildren who never had the pleasure of knowing such great people. I would like to be remembered to my great grandchildren someday as person who would always be there for those she loved.
    OTOH- "What if I am wrong?" That is a huge sticking point for me. Maybe I am supposed to give guidance in a different fashion? I think this is one reason sitting on the sideline has become a habit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What if I am wrong is something I try to remember when dealing with other religious traditions, or no religious feelings at all. I have certain beliefs that work for me, but that doesn't mean I am right!

      Delete
    2. Growing up in a diverse community (two sects of Judaism, Agnostics, Unitarians, all sorts of Christian religions- LDS, Methodist, Episcopal, Church of Christ in my neighborhood) helped me see that voicing my beliefs is not wrong, enforcing them on others is. Teaching throughout the world let me experience all sorts of religions that have the same base as mine- but taught in different ways (Islam, Hindi, Daoism, Wicca, Navajo/Hopi spirituality, Confucian). It is not my ignorance of beliefs, it is the stifling of voice of any belief at all (in my case- Christian) because it, possibly, could not be the right one. Is that robbing a generation of family a system to build their world on? I just don't know.

      Delete
  3. Having reinvented myself, too many times to count, over the years I feel pretty confident in my ability to grow and change. It's inevitable and easier when we accept that life is change. Think of it as an adventure and every day brings something new.
    b

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes thank you for those works. I have also reinvented myself many times and about to do so again. Perhaps change is what keeps us moving forward, I will try to think of this new time as an adventure.

      Delete
    2. We must change to stay alive and connected with the world. Life doesn't offer an alternative, does it? The key is to welcome the changes and Use them in a positive way.

      Delete
  4. My husband retired last year, now working 3 days each week but ready to retire completely at age 66. I am still working at age 61. We bought a home in Naples Florida that is so beautiful; we have a couple we know who lives here and have met some new friends but our only child and his wife just had a child and we want to be part of that child's life. I also want another opportunity to support my son as I felt I let him down at times while he was growing up. So we have the house in Florida on the market, and are moving to a less expensive and more accommodating home in Maryland in a few weeks. But when I am in Florida I continue to meet these lovely healthy happy retired people and worry we have made the wrong decision. Can we be living for our children and grandchildren while building a new life for the two of us in Maryland? We have many friends there and some family. Will we regret not taking the opportunity to live in Florida and enjoy this lifestyle in favor of being with family and friends as we age? Has anyone experienced this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a subject I have written about a lot, and the answer is, it depends. Some retirees move to be close to family and love it. Others find that the family they want to be involved with has a full life and time with gran and grandad is not all that frequent. Others report missing their own circle of friends and lifestyle when they move or have problems adjusting to the climate.

      Whether this is right for you and hubby will depend on the type of relationship you expect to have, and actually receive, from your son's family. Certainly, I would urge you to talk over how much involvement in your son's family's life is likely. That will help you feel comfortable with your decision.

      Delete
    2. Ellen,

      Not to increase your anxiety, but I have had two friends now who moved with their spouse to "be closer to the children and grandchildren," and within 3 years the young families had moved away to seek new opportunities--leaving the hapless grandparents alone and at a distance again.

      It is a tough call and each circumstance is unique. I wish you the best.

      Rick in Oregon

      Delete
    3. I have to agree with Bob and rainguy. Granted, we have kids in multiple locations, but we also have kids nearby who have the grandchildren we see the least. And it's not from lack of effort on our part. I hope you've had or will have a chat with your son before changing your life to be more in his.
      Wishing you the best,
      --Hope

      Delete
    4. My gut tells me you should stay put in Naples if you love your home, have friends and enjoy the lifestyle. But your choice, of course. Hope it works out like you hope.

      Delete
    5. We have recently moved to be closer to my daughter’s family (and two grandsons), and we love it! In our case, my daughter and son in law were eager for us to move here; in fact, they spent a couple of years encouraging us to make the move. We also have other family and friends nearby, and had very few ties to the place we left. The only aspect that isn’t perfect is that we are not as close to our other set of grandkids (Rob’s daughter’s family), and other relatives and friends as we would like. But we can’t be in two places at once! We will just visit there often. In our case, it has all worked out. So, deciding to move to be closer to adult kids really depends on your specific circumstances, as Bob pointed out.

      Jude

      Delete
  5. Aging and death is inevitable. I'm influenced by my nursing education rooted in biology and my connection to nature, my "church of the long grass". I have no desire to live forever. Surrender plays a big part. I will surrender to the physical limitations of aging and be proactive. Aging has granted me experience that allows me to say no, to make my own way, and stand my own ground. I've witnessed death as a nurse and in nature, some of the most spiritual moments of my life. Birth and death are the common denominators and great equalizers of us humans. I'm reminded of that when I perceive someone as "different". We all bleed red. I have felt "other than" in my family and community. Different comes in many forms. Success is about living and dying well, doing a little bit better every day, whether that's emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, socially. I'm learning about love; to love in spite of shortcomings, preconceptions and misconceptions. And mostly, I'm learning to love myself. I want to be remembered while I am alive, so while I'm alive, I'll endeavor to matter. Thanks to Galen's blog for this: Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth "You owe me". Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the sky - Hafiz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a beautiful summary of an approach to living. Thank you, Mona. I have nothing to add to such an excellent point of view.

      Delete
    2. Mona, this is a moving piece —you have packed so much wisdom into this statement of life philosophy. The three parts that especially resonated with me are: 1) “church of the long grass” — that describes my spirituality as well (if you can call it that). 2) “learning to love myself” — yep, I have work to do in that too. 3) “while I am alive, I will endeavour to matter” — yes to that, whether motivated by a grand passion or purpose, or whether making contributions in many small ways. Thank you for writing this.

      Jude

      Delete
  6. Aging: I saw my grandfather live to a vibrant 85 because he kept doing physical labor on a farm and exercising. With that memory, and my commitment to exercise and as much work on a farm as I can do, I am not affected by the prevalent preconception among the under 45 crowd that aging means an inevitable decline into decrepitude. Bob, society's view of aging may be changing but anecdotally I have yet to see it; I've talked to so many retired folks who say they felt "invisible" and marginalized once they passed a certain age where they looked "older."

    People not like me: As a Jew in America, I am part of the religious minority and have experienced insults, harassment, prejudice and hate crimes because of my religion. So I am extremely wary around Christians and Muslims, perhaps more than I need to be. Better safe than sorry.

    I worked as a teacher to non-English-speaking students, so any preconceptions I had about different cultures got washed away as I got to know and work with my students.

    Defining success: Like you, Bob, my values changed. Professional stature and material goods have taken a backseat to loving and making a difference to my family and close friends. Barb, I love what you said about reinventing yourself, because that's what I am doing. Mona, like you, I am learning about love, something I took for granted too much before retiring.

    Being remembered: I remember reading in Education Psych how at our stage of life people shift to valuing being remembered in their community or among their family. Before I hit this myself I was skeptical, but I find myself trying to live for my family and close friends. I am thinking about how to get involved in my community, too, something I never had time for when I was working. Janette, I agree it's so important to let the next generation know about all the great people we knew. My sisters and I are going through this as we research our ancestors and share our memories of our wonderful great uncles, great aunts, and grandparents.

    Linda, I'm going to make myself a plaque like you described, to remind me there's a balance between the past and the present. And as many people here have said, I would like to be remembered as a person who made a difference, both to her family and her students -- not for anything I taught, but for caring, helping, and supporting them through good times and bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts and your inclusion of what others have said so far. That is a form of validation that is much appreciated by us all.

      Delete
  7. Here is my take on your challenge, Bob.

    Aging

    I have shifted my efforts from lifespan to “healthspan.” I want to optimize my functional capacity as long as possible. I find that if I stay present and enjoy “this moment” as much as possible, the passing of years seem of less importance.

    My father is 91 years old, and in an assisted living facility. It is remarkable to see the correlation between maintaining interest in life (reading, projects, hobbies) and physical health. I always plan to have “something” to do and keep my mind engaged. The body will benefit as a result.

    People Not Like Us

    I was blessed to have a career at a university where I had daily exposure to a full range of people and personalities, nationalities, ethnicities and sexual orientations… so I am comfortable with diversity. I am losing my tolerance for rude and/or angry people.. which we seem to have more of these days, and I find myself avoiding discussion of politics. I am a happy agnostic and I have a wide variety of good friends who range from devout Catholics to atheists. I enjoy discussing their faith (or lack thereof) with them and they are my friends because of their kindness and decency, not because of their beliefs.

    Defining Success

    I have already decided that I won the lottery of life. I had a truly “Beaver Cleaver” childhood, with loving parents who encouraged me to pursue my passions. We did not have a lot of money, but we had enough. And that concept of “enough” has stayed with me into adulthood. I seek balance and contentment, and I look for ways to help others find the same in their lives.

    Being Remembered

    I was just in a discussion about this with a friend the other day. He was telling me that we each experience two deaths; the first when we actually pass away and the next when our names are spoken for the last time. As I intend to be cremated and my ashes scattered, I expect it will not be long before I am forgotten in name. But I still receive notes from my former students and friends, telling me that something I said to them years ago had a tremendous impact on their life and/or career, and that they pass my “wisdom” on to others. That is my immortality… and it is enough.

    Thanks for your post. It is always important to reflect on what we believe periodically—our life foundation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can relate well to your Beaver Cleaver reference. As I told my parents several times in their declining years, I had absolutely no bad memories of childhood. Even though my dad struggled with bouts of unemployment, his attitude was always upbeat, and mom always kept everything flowing smoothly. I wouldn't change one thing. I would hope my kids might feel the same way if ever asked.

      Your life's summary is very encouraging. I enjoy your take on things and am pleased you contributed to this post. Thank you.

      Delete
  8. We all -- as individuals and as a society -- need to revisit our preconceptions about aging. Study after study in many different countries (including the United States) shows that well-being is highest in the sixties and seventies that at any other time of life; and yet we persist in believing that youth is better (which is really unfair to young people). And it turns out that perceptions of aging are self-fulfilling prophecies. One study in Ohio that followed people for several decades starting at age 50 found that those with positive perceptions of aging at age 50 had better physical and psychological health in the decades to come and lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative perceptions of aging at age 50. For more about this, see my recent post "Paradoxes of Aging, Health and Happiness" (http://stepintofuture.wordpress.com/2017/09/25/paradoxes-of-aging-health-and-happiness/) -Jean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is a battle of attitude rather than aging. If we believe in the messages of society they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

      Thanks for the link, Jean.

      Delete
  9. I relate to so much you have written here, Bob. Aging has its moments (mostly the body not doing what it once could), but overall it's great. My sixties have been great so far, and while I can feel I don't have the energy or stamina I once did, I have enough to do what I enjoy. And we're traveling now, because we can both see we won't want to take it on forever.

    As for those not like us, if I'm honest, there are those I struggle with, too. And the divisions in the world are not helping my perceptions. I did have to laugh at your aversion to tattoos. We've had that discussion many times, and we had to pretty much accept that some of our nearest and dearest have made that decision. Not one we would choose, but OTOH, like many other things, it can change your perception/immediate judgement when someone you love makes that choice and you know them to be a good person with a strong work ethic. (I guess that statement gives away my prior position on them...haha.)

    Your definition of success and position on being remembered are spot on IMHO.

    Cheers!
    Hope

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I refuse to bury my head in the sand and ignore what is happening in the news, but it does make it tough to remain upbeat som days, I will admit.

      I'm afraid I will never be completely comfortable with tattoos. My daughters never had the urge and I doubt the grandkids will either. I know it shouldn't but it still shocks me when I see an older woman with a visible display of ink.

      Delete
  10. Aging doesn't bother me, other than a few aches and pains, which is normal. Being dead doesn't bother me either, but the dying process does. Mostly the issue of not having a personal choice to chose when I'm ready to go.

    People not like us can open up a whole new world of views, insights and knowledge that could serve us all well.

    Success to me is just living "well." Appreciation of life, curiosity and always learning.

    Being remembered will be harder for me as I have no children and most of my family is gone. But it doesn't matter. Very few people that have been dead 100 years are remembered now. In the far future, brains will probably be uploaded for perpetual reference and study. Now that's immortality.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like you, the aging process doesn't bother me much since there not a lot I can do about it. But, the uncertainty of my death: how, in what form, painful or quick, a burden to others? THose are the questions that haunt me a bit.

      Delete

Inappropriate comments will be deleted