December 31, 2019

A New Beginning & Something's Gone

Truthfully, I was very close to shutting down this blog as of December 31st. I had run out of retirement topics and felt burned out on the subject.

I am very glad I didn't follow through. 

The response to some of the topics I now feel free to address has resulted in a new burst of creative energy, and some fascinating and meaningful exchanges. Not everyone has been happy with my views on more controversial matters. Even so, for the most part the exchanges have been reasoned and deal with the issues, not in personal attacks and name-calling.

One of the most gratifying experiences with this blog has been the creation of a community of folks passionate enough about something to share opinions, knowing their thoughts would be treated with respect by others. In today's blogging world that creation of a safe place to express oneself is not the norm.

So, with deep gratitude, thank you for helping make this a rare port in the blogging storm: a place where adults feel comfortable in talking about what matters to them.

One thing you may have noticed: I have removed all advertisements from Satisfying Retirement. With the growing concern about companies collecting our personal data, one concrete step I could take is not provide places where a company is able to gather data just because a reader clicks on an ad on this blog. 

Yes, I will lose some money, but not enough to change my mind. The battle to safeguard our privacy and not allow others to profit off our data is heating up. I want Satisfying Retirement to be a safe place, not only for comments and a free exchange of ideas, but also one that protects your privacy.

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and Day.

December 29, 2019

The Earth is Flat

I am really tired of cries of "Fake Media." Obviously, in the world in which we find ourselves, anything we don't agree with, or something that might shake our preconceived notions is "fake." 

Truth has become fluid, defined by how well it fits our world view, not by any objective standard. 

I saw an article not to long ago that seemed to epitomize the lengths to which subjective truth can be stretched.

Did you know there is a flat earth society. Can you accept that there are thousands of members of this reality-challenged group and that their numbers are growing? That they believe the earth is flat, it is stationary in the galaxy, while the sun, planets, and stars rotate around us? Known as the geocentric view, this belief held sway until the late 16th century when scientists developed the Heliocentric model which shows the earth and planets rotating around the sun. 

Apparently, the Flat Earth people didn't get the memo. In their view the Antarctic ice cap keeps people from falling off the edge. Of course, that begs the question what happens as it melts? If the earth is round why doesn't water in a bathtub slosh toward one end? We can't see gravity, so who knows if it is real? The sky is actually just a large dome.

Conventions around the world are filled with folks who follow this train of thought. Hundreds of thousands of the true believers gather on web sites and forums to support each other. I won't go through all their theories, but offer you a link to the story on CNN: The Flat Earth Movement. I have to assume some of these folks are just along for the ride and don't believe it all, but that does leave many who do.

At the moment we are in a world awash in conspiracy theories. Why? This isn't the place to delve into the deep recesses of the human brain for the physiological answer. But, I will offer my take on this issue: I think there are people who need to invent an alternate reality or a fictional story line to protect and reinforce strongly-held beliefs. There may be a need to be part of a community, no matter how far out of the mainstream.

Our hyper-connected world allows one person to spread an idea around the globe (or across it, if the earth is flat) instantly, no matter how unhinged from reality it might be. Media tends to look for the brightest flash of light, or the most bizarre occurrence, to grab our splintered attention, if for only a moment. Web sites that exist only to serve as clickbait to advance a belief or sell advertising have become pervasive.

I think we can all (or most of us) agree that conspiracy theories are not helpful. We can chuckle at the idea that there are people who want to think the earth is flat, or the moon is made of cheese, or whatever. But, I suggest there is a much bigger danger that underlies these thoughts.

Basic truths, scientific facts, or simple reality are no longer enough for humans. We can convince ourselves that up is down, light is dark, or truth is fake. As our president has said several times, "What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening." Or Groucho Marx's, "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

When we are in a world where what is real is up for debate, haven't we reached a very dangerous place? If we are told to deny what we see and what we hear for a vision that someone claims is the only accurate one, what comes next? 

Truthfully (?), this is not a veiled attempt by me to insert my thoughts about the impeachment drama into a post. Rather, it is profound unease at being in a world where those things that anchor us to reality are debatable. 

Topics like religion or politics or even whether Apple is better than Microsoft, are meaningful subjects to hold different opinions. The impact of technology on our privacy (what's left of it) should generate strong opinions and debates. Science uncovers and discovers new information all the time that gives us new insight into nature and life. We adjust how we perceive things based on new, credible information.

But, come on. Truth matters. Reality matters. Facts matter. Or do they? To even raise that question is deeply unsettling.

December 26, 2019

A Retirement Shake-up

Don't we experience times when we are simply going through the motions? Every day is much like the day before. It is safe and predictable. There is a comfortable routine to the day. Nothing really new or interesting happens. There are no problems we can't handle without a little effort. Inspiration is taking a break. Life moves forward. One of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr, puts it this way: "The familiar and the habitual are so falsely reassuring that most of us make our homes there permanently."

But, is that truly living a satisfying retirement? How can I find new energy for whatever might be just around the corner?

Pay attention & shake it up

As I noted in an earlier post, I am beginning to broaden the subject matter of Satisfying Retirement. I want to write about some of the things that upset or please me. I want to write a bit more personally about aspects of my life that move me. I want to shake up what are appropriate topics for a retirement blog.

One of my best sources for renewed energy and a fresh direction is to stop long enough to look at the world around me. 
What is happening in the world that keeps slapping me in the face, demanding I pay more attention, take a more active role in highlighting its effect on us? 

What in my life might give me inspiration if taken in a different direction? Old photos, movies, a play or theater presentation, mementos around the house, the birds in the backyard, people at the mall, actually just about anything can inspire if my mood is right and I'm open to seeing things in a new way.

What are my attempts at oil painting, photo editing, guitar playing, or volunteer teaching 5th graders about the economy and smart money management teaching me about myself and my retirement journey?

Looking for a new angle or use of the everyday, meeting a new person or having a new experience, any of these can energize an otherwise mundane day. I might read something in a magazine that changes my perspective. Checking out my favorite bloggers almost always forces me to open my mind to some different idea. Shaking up a routine or attempting to break an unproductive habit can be just the boost I need to get moving again.

Sometimes you just have to act

There will be times when you must force yourself to take action. It would be easier and more pleasant to avoid whatever it is. But, the problem isn't going away until you confront it. Whether this is a relationship issue, a health concern, a financial upset, or even where to go on vacation you may have to simply grit your teeth and do something. Problems and opportunities don't respond well to inaction.

I dislike the "ready, fire, aim" approach most of the time. But, I have done just that at times when I had a brain-lock and had to simply "do."

Look for something fresh from others

Inspiration for your life can often comes from an outside source. Interacting with other people may be an effective way to find an answer to a problem. They may not directly address what your need is. But, by simply being with them you may find a new path toward something. Being with a group of people you enjoy can't help but make you feel better.

Joining a new club, organization, or church group may be the spark you need. Volunteering in a setting where you interact with folks who need your help and are different from those you normally spend time with can often do the trick. My seven years of prison ministry gave me me an entirely fresh perspective on people. Folks I know help with meals at local rescue missions. They tell me there are fewer ways to learn so quickly the connection we all have with each other and the simple joy of serving.

Maybe you simply need a retread

Reusing or reworking something you have done before is really what retirement is all about. A lifetime of behavior and expectations are up for review. Just because you thought one way while working doesn't mean that line of thought is best for your life now.

Was there an interest or hobby you used to love that fell by the wayside? Is it time to bring it back, maybe in a slightly different way? When you were 30 you loved to mountain bike. But, now at 70 maybe trail riding is safer and more suited to your body. You still love to bike, but you change the approach.

Kick starting your satisfying retirement really is just a case of rejecting the status quo. As our hour glass begins to run lower on sand, waiting for tomorrow to energize yourself today is probably not the wisest course.

Note: make an effort to read the January 2nd post. I am trying something I have never done before. I have no idea what the outcome will be but it is certainly an attempt to shake things up, if even for just one day.

December 24, 2019

Celebrate Your Blessings

Today is the day for a post that is short and to the point:

To everyone who has made 2019 another year of growth and friendship, thank you. Your support, suggestions, comments, and presence continue to make this a memorable journey for me. I can't wait to see what the new year may hold for us all. 

I wish for you and your family a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season. To be alive as the special individual who is you, is a blessing.

My very best to you from my family and me. 

December 20, 2019

What is Perennial Wisdom?

When you read the phrase, "Perennial Wisdom," does anything come to mind? Maybe an ancient religious tradition. Buddhism? Tao? Someone like Gandhi, sitting cross-legged on a straw mat? The writing of a mystic in China 3000 years ago? Maybe you have no reaction to that phrase; it is new to you. If you had asked me that question a year ago, I would have had no real idea, beyond a generic, "wisdom that stands the test of time?"

Things have changed. For purposes of this post, I want to explore what is becoming an important part of my satisfying retirement. Because this involves religion I will attempt to tread carefully. Whatever I say is part of my journey and is not meant to "convert" or move you toward any path.

Rather, it is important for me to try to solidify some evolving parts of my life and where it may lead me. If you do not believe in some type of supreme force that created everything, or you think that the universe is just a random happenstance, this will not be your post, though I ask you to read to the end before dismissing my thoughts.

Simply put, Perennial Wisdom refers to the ideas, thoughts, and concepts that are shared by many religious traditions across cultures and time. Wikipedia puts it this way: Perennial Wisdom is the idea that all religions, underneath seeming differences, point to the same truth. That as much as religions have divided us, caused wars, and sparked events that lead to hate and fear, the underlying core belief is that there is one divine reality.

Many of us call that reality, God. Other cultures and languages refer to the same concept with words like Allah, Yahweh, or Abba. I do believe in a supreme being of some sort, but how it (not a him or her since those are human words to help define something we can understand) interacts with time, space, and me is what I am working through. 

So, where I find myself is moving to a different understanding of the place of God in my life and the beliefs that are taking me there. Bottom line: some parts of the religion I was raised with and spent almost all of my life following no longer seem to work. That God is too small, too confined, too distant, and much too judgmental for where my studies are leading me. I just happened to be born in the one culture that has the only correct answer to the universe's biggest question? That viewpoint doesn't work for me anymore.

Without getting into an analysis better suited for a religious studies class, the end result of months of reading and study has me in a place where God is present in everything on earth right now - me, you, every human being, all plants, and animals - as well as everything that makes up the universe. He, or she, or it, is not perched on a throne somewhere distant from us, judging our behavior and worthiness. The creator is an on-going part of all creation, both now and for all eternity.

Believing that the divine essence is in every human being, then there must be acceptance and love for us, as the creations of that ultimate creator. If I assume the supreme being is all about love and seeing what has been created flourish, it would make absolutely no sense that whole bunches of us were unlucky enough to be born in the wrong culture or on the wrong side of the world, making our life's path fruitless and dooming us to hell (whatever that is). 

I am not designed to live my life to guarantee a happy ending in eternity at some point in the future. I was born to try to allow God's basic truths to flow through me now and into whatever the future holds. And, what are those "truths?" Love, kindness, and caring for others. I am to be a living representation of what the essence of that God is, here, right now, on earth. As Richard Rohr says, "When you are young you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for things we all share in common."

Importantly, that Reality hasn't given special insight or "picked" one religious tradition as the only way to live. Those rules and belief systems are man's way to understand something that is really beyond our ability to describe and grasp. Even so, we attempt to do so, using our own culture, language, and history to try and make sense of it all. That has lead to all sorts of bad things. Religion can be used to advance an agenda or system that has nothing to do with the core beliefs that I think a divine reality cares about.

All that said, I am a Christian because that is the culture in which I was born and raised. Now, I bring to that faith a broader, more inclusive definition. The Bible was written for a particular culture at a particular time in history. I do not believe it is a literal word for word dictation of God's words that must apply to 21st century America. I do not believe the world was created in six days or that Adam and Eve were actual human beings living in a garden somewhere in the Mid East until they ate a particular fruit. But those, and many parts of the Bible are meant to represent both God's power and love for his creation, as well as man's constant struggle to be in sync with that power. Those stories don't have to be true but still teach us truths.

Importantly, this interpretation doesn't change the purpose and power of the Bible to help direct my life. To me, the Bible is  a collection of stories, some literal, some historical, some myths, that are man's attempts to explain God and how we interact with that force. Just because it is not literally true, doesn't mean it is not fundamentally true. The message of God's love for his creatures is what everything in that book points to. 

In that sense the Bible is a guide to how to understand our world. But, I do not need to accept today what the Arab/Jewish world thought of women or slavery or the lack of scientific awareness to believe. I don't have to accept that wearing mixed fibers is wrong. I do need to understand the essential messages in the Bible and make them part of my journey. I don't have to believe every word in the Bible is directly from God to accept the perennial wisdom it contains.

I don't believe my beliefs are the only path to God. I don't believe in excluding people who are trying to reach God in different ways. To have the level of hubris necessary to declare that my way is the only way places me on the level of the Ultimate Reality, a place no human being occupies. As author Jackie Cushman said, so many of our problems come from that "certainty that you are absolutely, undeniably right in whatever you believe or do, and that the other person or group is absolutely, without question, wrong.”

All this is my way of trying to explain a rather important shift in how I see the world. God, or a Supreme Being by any other name, is deep within me, and every other creature. My "job" is to allow that part of me that carries God's imprint to flow from me and impact others in a way that represents the essence of that spirit. I now believe sin is when I am living in a way that hides, or distorts, that eternal flame. Sin is not something I do wrong. It is when I am not allowing the holy spirit part of me to interact with other creatures of  in the way that God wants.

If you are still with me, thanks for granting me these few minutes to put into words what is an evolving part of my story. Again, I say this is my very personal journey. You may disagree with virtually everything I have written, and that is absolutely your right. As noted a few times above, I don't claim to have answers except for me. I don't claim that my way is THE way. My answers are my answers to my questions and my thinking.

For another post could be a discussion of how an all loving Supreme Being allows hate and war and bad things to happen. This is a difficult topic, one that I am feeling more comfortable in wrapping my mind around. But, that is for another time.

In case you are interested in doing some of your own reading and exploring this subject, here are a handful of books (out of the dozens!) that I found most helpful in opening up my mind to other possibilities:

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

The Naked Now by Richard Rohr

Perennial Wisdom by Rami Shapiro

Reading The Bible Again For The First Time by Marcus Borg

December 16, 2019

Decisions That Make a Big Difference

A life is a collection of events, happenstances, genetics, luck, and environment. It can be altered in a second by an accident or medical emergency. These factors are usually out of your control. But, a life is also the sum total of decisions that you make along the way. Regardless of age or one's present situation, certain choices affect what happens from that point forward. Here are some of the primary decisions that have shaped my journey.

People tell me I was rather odd in one regard: I knew what I wanted to do at age 12 and stayed with that choice for 40 years. A more normal occurrence is to struggle with the decision of what should be one’s life work through the teen years, into college, and maybe beyond. But, the first time I stepped foot into a radio station in Cambridge, Ohio at that tender age I was hooked. By fifteen I was a DJ after school and on weekends at a station in suburban Boston. Another dozen years of playing rock and roll records in various cities lead to a being a consultant and researcher.

I remained completely satisfied with my career choice until I stopped work at age 52. That I was able to discover my life’s passion for a career so young saved me a lot of struggles and uncertainty. The fact that I loved the radio business meant I was not going to a job everyday to earn money. I went to work everyday because I was passionate about all of it.

Today, it is much more likely someone will change careers throughout his or her working years. In fact, current studies suggest most people will change occupations between five and seven times. On one hand I can see that as a good thing. Different parts of one's personality and skills can be more fully used. Feelings of stagnation or being trapped are less likely. Of course, the risk is there is no opportunity to ever be at one place long enough to build much in the way of retirement savings. But, overall I see advantages in the willingness to shake up employment life on a regular basis.

Marriage must be very high on any list of important decisions. Your life changes forever. It is no longer just your life, but a shared life. You are at least partially responsible for every major choice that now affects at least one other person. Your ability to compromise, to become less self-centered, and to share will have a direct effect on the marriage’s chances for success.

I have been happily married for 43 years. It hasn’t always been easy; it isn’t supposed to be. But, the commitment we made to each other was forever and neither of us can imagine a life that doesn’t include the other.

As I noted in a post several years ago about Boomers and divorce the rate has doubled over the last two decades among those 50 plus. That post mentioned some of the reasons so I won't repeat them here. But, divorce among soon-to-be retired, or fully retired folks, is a serious social issue.

In addition to the obvious emotional pain, there are several unintended consequences for everyone: more people without the financial resources to survive and extra burdens on the health care and nursing home systems. I have no answers to suggest but know we must be aware that the breakup of a marriage among older folks is just as devastating as it is when young children are involved.

From our marriage came two daughters. If you tell yourself that getting married means big changes, hold onto your hat. Having kids makes the changes of marriage look minor by comparison. The primary reason for living, the center of your world, and the forces behind almost every choice you make from that point forward are different when you have children. Parents know the absolute love and complete terror that comes with children. At least for me (and my wife), there is nothing I have done that comes close to equaling the importance of the birth and development of our kids.

Very important has been the ability to maintain close relationships with both girls, and now, the grandchildren that have come along. To have all of us living within 15 minutes of each other affects each of us in positive ways. It has been great to see the grandchildren able to experience the blessing of interacting with two sets of grandparents on a weekly basis.

Another key decision happened very early in our marriage. My wife and I agreed to live by three simple financial rules. We would always live beneath our means, we would not follow common wisdom as it applied to our investments, and we would value experiences over things.

Over the years I have written several posts about this direction for our financial life. As we have moved from our early years together, through the raising childhood phase, to empty nest, and now retirement those financial decisions have proven crucial to our stability and enjoyment of our life together. 

The decisions I made were right for me at that time. If my circumstances had been different some of those choices may have been different. But, that is the amazing thing about life. Every one of us is different. At least to a degree we have the chance to shape and re-shape our life constantly. That makes waking up every morning exciting. What will the day hold and how can I shape it? What will happen that makes this a satisfying retirement?

OK, your turn. Look back on a key decision or two in your life. If you had them to do over again would you? Did your choices prove to be a good ones? If not, what did you do to put the mistakes behind you?

December 13, 2019

It Made me Angry

As promised, this is the first post under the broader heading of Satisfying Retirement. As noted in To Everything There Is a Season, after nine plus years of writing about regular retirement topics, I felt the need to make a course correction. I began to feel that writing only about typical retirement concerns was no longer being honest with my feelings and deepest concerns. Plus, it was becoming kind of boring.

Retirement is a unique stage of life. We have the time and freedom to become more involved in the world around us. The status of our investments, relationships, where to travel, and how to maneuver through the maze of Medicare and Social Security are important. They come with the territory.

But, is that enough? There is a much bigger world beyond our personal retirement concerns and lifestyle. There are forces at work that are changing how all of us live. There are problems that we can only ignore at our own peril. There are powers at work that will impact us whether we want them to or not.

I want to address them, too.

Then there are parts of our lives that are worth exploring. Spirituality, mortality, being more mindful of each passing day come to mind. So do thoughts on a more spartan lifestyle, a health approach or diet that seems to work. How about keeping a long term marriage interesting and vibrant? What movies are we seeing or books are we reading that leave a lasting impression? All sorts of possibilities are possible topics.

I realize this comes with risks. I appreciate that some regular readers of this blog may be dismayed by this more diverse direction and decide to go elsewhere. If that is you, know you go with my blessing and support. There are several more traditional retirement blogs listed on the right sidebar I invite you to visit and make them your new home.

I am hoping that many of you will stay. You are encouraged to leave comments and express your feelings on subjects that may be important to you. It would be satisfying if new readers find this blog and discover a place to learn, think, challenge, and grow. I will do my best to welcome a diversity of opinion. I will not simply express my views on a particular subject and ask you agree with all that I write. That would be boring, for you and me, and not help contribute to the conversations we must have.

OK, so with all that said, what "Made Me Angry" enough to be the first post under the wider scope of  Satisfying Retirement?

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)
It was a movie I saw recently with my wife and one of my daughters. Harriet is the powerful, gut-wrenching, anger-inducing, tear generating story of Harriet Tubman. Born in 1822 in Maryland, this rather diminutive woman was a powerful giant in forcing a society's attitude toward slavery and human rights to begin to change.

Her story is one of courage, love of family, and placing personal safety behind the need to help right a wrong. She was responsible for the escape to freedom of hundreds of slaves through the work of the Anti Slavery society in Philadelphia and as part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. She worked tirelessly to help change the American mindset that slavery was either necessary or could be tolerated to maintain economic and social stability.

This isn't the place to go through Ms. Tubman's full story. The movie is worth your time, or the library and Internet can give you glimpses into her amazing life. What I want to address is my strong reaction to this story: Anger....anger at the treatment of human beings as animals and property based simply on skin color and history.

The idea that one class or race can own another goes back thousands of years. But, to fully appreciate that a country founded on freedom from religious and political oppression could allow, no, encourage human slavery, is almost too hard to process. It is a dark, evil part of our our collective past. There is no way to paint it as something other than what it was. 

Getting (and staying) angry at something historical is important, but there is a bigger takeaway. While slavery may not exist legally anymore, one must be willfully blind to not see racial discrimination is still a powerful, daily part of American society. Do even a minimal amount of Google research on shootings and police mistreatment of blacks, or racial profiling in real estate, education, and employment and my point will be made.

Look at the immigration debate and border situation, see through some of the political posturing, and you must see racism, coupled with fear of "the other," as part of the problem. Yes, illegal border crossings are a huge problem that must be corrected. It is an issue that doesn't lend itself to slogans or simple solutions. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, less than 200 miles from the porous border with Mexico, so I live close to the center of the problem.

But, to stigmatize those desperate for a better life as criminals and rapists is not that different from the fear used to control and maintain slavery over 170 years ago. Just like in slavery times, to tear families apart as a tool of control and power is just as cruel and useless. Migration issues are for another post, so I will stop here except to emphasize that the damage done by hate and racism is ongoing. Slavery comes in many different forms.

I hope that the disappointment, and anger I felt after seeing Harriet doesn't simply fade from my consciousness over time. When presented with the opportunity to confront racism or racial profiling in all its various forms, I pray I will have the fortitude to speak up. I dream of a time when this subject is a foul part of our history, not part of our present and future.

Thanks for reading.

Note: I was sad (and disappointed) to learn of a series of harassing verbal assaults, written racial slogans and graffiti against Asian and African-American students on the walls of various buildings at my alumnus, Syracuse University, in late November. It had gotten so bad that all social functions at all Greek Fraternities were banned for the last few weeks of the fall semester.

I am sure this kind of stuff happened when I was a student and fraternity member there in the late 60's and early 70's, though it seemed we spent our energy demonstrating against the Vietnam War and that dreaded Industrial-Military complex.

Syracuse has had a reputation of being a liberal, progressive, welcoming school. Obviously, the type of hatred and intolerance that Harriet portrays and we read about every day, has infected every corner of our world.

It makes me angry.

December 10, 2019

To Everything There Is A Season

Sunsets must follow sunrises

After roughly 3,500 days of writing about retirement I'm pretty sure I have discussed, explained, validated, and probed the topic as much as anyone.

After nearly 3.5 million views of this blog, the message of what makes a satisfying retirement has been read by a lot of people.

After 24,000 comments have been posted and a few thousand spam-like ones have been deleted , a community has been established that is respectful, engaged, and eager to share.

All these statistics add up to one conclusion: Satisfying Retirement has had a good run. When I retired in 2001 I found very little that spoke to me about all aspects of what I was about to face. That led to the decision to try to fill a void in non-financial-oriented retirement information. This blog was launched in June of 2010. I had no idea what would happen. 

To say I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased would be an understatement. Friendships, dear and important to me, have been formed. Interactions with readers from over a dozen different countries have enriched my life and broadened my understanding of the human condition. We have been through a lot together and I m a better person because of our shared time.

All this bring me to a necessary conclusion: change is constant. Evolution is ongoing. At some point a new direction must be pursued and new challenges accepted. At some point all wells begin to run dry; then it is time to drill a new one. To everything there is a season.

I am making some changes to Satisfying Retirement. I feel my take on just this one subject needs broadening. What I am doing is expanding the focus from just the nuts and bolts of retirement to include some of the issues I feel passionate about, things that this retired person has the time and maybe even the responsibility to address.

What exactly? Well things like climate change, racial tensions, gender equality, and income inequality would make that list. My recent spiritual journey that has meant important adjustments to a lifetime of beliefs seems likely. These topics will be interspersed with retirement-oriented topics that continue to be important and generate solid feedback. 

Politics? Occasionally, but infrequently. There is plenty of that from other places, and it tends to generate more heat than light. Even so, there will be times when something going on in that sphere compels me to speak out.

To write about subjects that aren't strictly retirement-oriented I must be prepared to endure some comments that maybe less "pleasant"  than what this blog has generated. I will need a thicker skin and a double dose of patience. Convictions and feeling can be strong when these topics are discussed.

At the same time I must be open to learning from reasonable arguments and positions that differ from mine. It would be wonderful if the type of active, involved community of readers I have been privileged to experience continues even with some different topics. I certainly will encourage respectful diversity. 

Also, we have all worked too hard together for me to want to abandon the Satisfying Retirement name to someone who won't treat it well. I just feel the need to take it in a wider direction under the same brand name.

You have been a big part of my (and Betty's) life since 2010. I sincerely hope you will join me as I continue on a new, somewhat wider path.

December 7, 2019

A Different Take On Fall Cleaning

No, this post has nothing to do with cleaning out closets, garages, and storage areas, though all those are good things to do as cold weather arrives to stay. This is a more subtle kind of fall cleaning, but still very important to your satisfying retirement. This is the time of year when we usually face a busier schedule, more calls for our help, and more demands on our energy. So, I am suggesting this is the perfect time to fall clean yourself. 

Just like a closet in your home can easily reach a cluttered, disorganized stage, so can our minds. Both require regular thinning out, re-prioritizing, and replacing worn out stuff with something newer and better suited to our needs.

I have written before about dumping personal habits that no longer serve their purpose. Just a few weeks ago I posted Declutter, Delete, Repeat.  Rather than revisit that topic, I'd like to explore a different kind of mind-cleaning: the buildup over time of commitments, must-dos, should-dos, and want-to-dos. Most of us hold onto a self-image that says we can do anything we set our mind to. When a friend calls we respond. When an interesting new volunteer opportunity arises we squeeze it in. When a friend recommends a new book to read, we get it and put it on the teetering stack by the bed.

Think of the messiest place in your home. Let's assume it is a hall closet: try to jam too much in and it becomes useless. You can't open the door without the risk of something falling on your head. When you need an item in the back of the closet you must take time to remove things that are blocking your way. The more we try to squeeze into that space the less it can perform its intended function. Finally, we are forced to take drastic action: take everything out and put back only the stuff that belongs there.

Our minds can become just like that closet. We try to pack in so much that we actually end up harming our productivity and happiness. Year after year we fill our schedule with meetings, events, and activities that no longer satisfy us or fit our lifestyle. Our mental closet has no space left to actually enjoy what we are doing. We go through the motions because we always have.

Fall is a good time to:

Stop doing what you do every fall and take the time to decide if everything continues to fit your life. Does that organization you belong to still meet your needs? What about the three time a week exercise class at 6:00 AM that leaves you dragging for the rest of the day? Is meeting friends at the coffee shop every Friday still a joy? Do I really have to dust every other day? Could I save a lot of money if I cooked at home more often?

Look at your options. The great thing about retirement is you have the freedom to look at how your life is going and make changes if you want to. Look at all the options you have for social interaction, hobbies, strengthening your body and health through new exercise routines, or going back to college to get that long-delayed degree. Think about your important there something I can do to make things nicer around the house? If I hire a cleaning service I can start those night classes I've always wanted. Can I squeeze that into my budget?

Listen to your heart. Too often I think we discount the importance of our emotions when we make decisions. During our working lives, usually thinking with your heart as well as your head can get you into trouble. Rare is the job where logical thought, an ordered system, and performance-based evaluations are balanced against how all of it makes you feel. But, now, you can listen to what your heart is telling you. Does this feel right? Am I more content if I do this instead of that? Is it less "productive" but makes me smile? Your heart can't always overrule your head, but at least give it a chance to be heard.

We all learned to Stop, Look & Listen near train tracks. That continues to be good advice. satisfying retirement requires that you keep a balance between your head and your heart. If something you are doing doesn't bring you joy or satisfaction and you can choose to do something else, then do so. The person best able to judge your performance is you.

December 3, 2019

How Would You Answer These Questions?

Hard to believe it has been this long, but almost four years ago a very popular blogger, Tess Marshall, decided to stop her The Bold Life blog and move onto other challenges. At one point a few years before she stopped posting, she published a list of 50 questions about personal growth. I printed that post and had it on my desk for probably a year or more.

Cleaning out old files last week and guess what I found? Some of the questions from Tess's list. I thought you might enjoy some of her questions and some of my confessional answers. I haven't updated my responses, except noting that my Dad has passed away since this was written, though the example I mention is worth repeating.

1) Have you been spontaneous in the last five days? 

Part of the joy of a satisfying retirement is the ability to not be locked into a schedule as rigid as the one you probably maintained during your working years. Sure, you have obligations and commitments, sometimes too many. You'll find many posts here about the importance of time management. Lots of comments from readers tell stories of finding themselves busier than ever and wondering how to fit in everything. I certainly struggle with that problem.

So, the answer to Tess's question is: not nearly enough. I use Google's calendar function to the extreme. Between it and an extensive to-do list there is little in my life that isn't planned ahead of time. My family jokes that I have my weekend chore list done 6 months in advance. No, I don't. It only goes into late April. So there.

But, spontaneity and I are distant cousins. Sure, every once in awhile I'll suggest dinner out instead of what is on the menu for that night. Or, maybe I'll throw caution to the wind and decide to have a picnic lunch on a warm afternoon. But, a truly spontaneous act, like deciding on an overnight trip, throwing a change of clothes in a suitcase and jumping in the car 30 minutes later doesn't happen. I'm just too regimented. I would like to change but I don't know how. Do you have any suggestions? 

2) Have you spent quality time with a loved one in the past 48 hours?

(Written seven years ago. My dad passed away in 2015 at age 91). At the time I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, the answer is yes. My dad's 88th birthday was yesterday. Betty, one of my daughters, and I joined him for dinner at a nicer restaurant. We presented him with a picture, taken 70 years ago, of my dad, his dad, and one of his brothers after a hunting trip. That triggered all sorts of stories of his life during the depression, all the jobs he held to help support the family, and the various sporting teams he was part of during high school. 

Importantly, his dad died of a heart attack not long after that picture was taken. We think it may be the last one of my dad and his father together in a photo. That made the birthday present and our chat at dinner that much more meaningful. With mom gone, dad depends on us to be the people he can love and hug. That time with him was important for us all.

3) Have you disconnected from all electronics for at least 24 hours in the last month?

No. As a post a few days ago related, my Twitter account was hacked into and used to send spam to thousands of unsuspecting folks. To force the evil person to go elsewhere I shut my account down for a few days. But, I was still tightly leashed to all my other electronic outlets. Between three computers, a smart phone, and now a Kindle Fire, I can't wander far. Add in my habit of watching Netflix most nights, and  electronics have a real hold. 

Could I go 24 hours without any of these tools and toys? Seriously, I don't know. Then I guess the question is, does it matter? What would be better if I took a 24 hour sabbatical? I'd be willing to give it a try if I saw a positive benefit. this electronic linkup bad? Should I disconnect for a day? Why? Tell me.

4) Have you read a book from cover to cover within the last 2 weeks?

Actually, two books finished within the last 14 days, and several more in various stages of completion. I find mysteries and thrillers relaxing so there is always at least one on the nightstand. I am reading two books about being a better chess player. I have a few books for our church small group and men's Bible study that are needed for weekly meetings. 

I try to read one book a week and have several others underway. I truly believe it helps my life, I know it helps this blog, and it keeps me plugged into the world in a way that the Internet and social media can't.

5) Have you spent some time in nature this  last week?

This is the time of year when living in the Phoenix area is a true blessing. So, the answer is, absolutely. Picnics, walks around neighborhood parks, hiking through parts of the mountain preserves, and enjoying places like the Desert Botanical Garden and Scottsdale's Railroad Park keep me and my wife in touch with nature. Sitting on the Ramada and reading, having lunch in the backyard, and keeping the bird feeders full allow us to enjoy fresh air and natural stimulation. All too soon the temperatures will make most of these activities unpleasant so we make an extra effort to be outside now.

6) Have you looked into someone's eyes and said, "I love you" in the last seven days?

Yes..actually several times every day. That is one of the real benefits of satisfying retirement and a happy marriage.