20131129 – Reimagining Life
I was reading AARP magazine (of course I’m old enough, it’s R rated for Retired!) and found one story after another worth pondering today; yes THREE DAYS overdue, I know. But hopefully you will benefit from more thoughtful pondering this week.
Marlo Thomas wrote a column called “On My Mind” where she shared some engaging thoughts on multi-generational bonding. It’s a good read if you can get your hands on a copy of the October/November 2013 issue. Having grown up surrounded by her father’s comedian friends and movie and TV show producers her whole life she found herself always bonding with people a generation or more senior to her. She mentioned Pew Research Center survey results showing that 51 million Americans live in a household shared with two or more adult generations, up ten percent over the last three years.
She also talked about the wisdom shared and the education she received through those bonds. Yeah, I can relate; in my younger days I remember bonding much more easily with those a generation older than myself. Not really sure why that was, it just was. I also found in her words reinforcement for my sense that multi-generational living can be a good and healthy thing, and very beneficial for all generations in the household. Providing of course that they learn how to live together as adults and give each other the space and the loving and nurturing relationships they need.
It seems to me like MG living was the order of the day for centuries and only in the last half century or so have we transformed from ‘we’ people to ‘me’ people. Nice to see, according to the Pew research that we may be tipping back toward more of a ‘we’ culture.
Another story talked about Valerie Harper’s determination and spirit in the face of a terminal illness at the age of 74; an age which doesn’t seem particularly old to me anymore now that I’m 63. There’s a lot to be said for a positive attitude, determination, and always putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult the path we choose or have forced upon us.
The magazine caught me by surprise when I discovered identified in its pages the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, my adopted (at age 30) home town, as one of the top cities in the country for retirees with an income of under $30,000 per year. Huh? Well yeah! Housing isn’t too expensive, taxes are a sore spot but not horrible, and there are pro sports, concerts, cultural events, and recreational opportunities too numerous to mention all year ‘round, and lots of it free, yes maybe there really is an occasional free lunch! Two miles from my home I can hop on a bike trail network and ride dozens or even hundreds of miles on marked, maintained and vehicle free trails.
On Monday nights during the summer I can go to free jazz concerts with friends, and even ride my bike into town from the suburbs to attend the concerts if I want. I can watch sunsets on the beach of our own ‘West Coast’ (shark free!) and camp at over eighty state and two national parks within an in-state drive. And with a decent airport we can get anywhere in the country or North America for that matter without too much trouble. And for us aging folks health care in this city is not to be sneezed at; not with some of the top rated hospitals and specialists in the country. Not too shabby a retirement in my book.
And that brings me to the last interesting story, reimagining life. Now I know most of us go through a midlife ‘crisis’ regarding life and career choices, but how many of us really look at it as more of an opportunity, no matter what the triggering event, to reimagine what our lives can become? For many of us the crisis arises in our early forties when we have second thoughts about the path we chose. But almost universally we face this opportunity when we’re in our fifties or early sixties and considering retirement. Whether this opportunity is thrust upon us through loss of a job, illness, age, or relocation or it’s a choice we’ve made to change; what a great opportunity it is, to reimagine what our life might be like.
Until I was thirty, I pretty much got to live as me even with the divine Miss D joining me in my twenties. I chose my educational and early career path, and we did things for me, or us, like skiing, four-wheeling, camping, hiking, or just parking it and watching college football on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We didn’t worry much about health or family; after all, we were healthy and our families could take care of themselves. Yeah, we missed them some, but that was the extent of it.
From thirty to sixty it was all about family, raising kids, keeping an eye on aging parents, keeping up with the siblings, making sure we could pay the bills. Sure the midlife crisis hit, causing a fair amount of personal angst, some job changes, and rising concerns about the state of our future finances. It felt like a constant state of worry; even when vacationing at Mammoth Cave, or Disneyworld, or the Colorado Rockies.
So what can life be like from sixty-(three) to ninety? Maybe I can make a difference to small businesses in our community; a whole new semi-retired vocational track. I’ve been privileged to be elected Chairman-elect of our local chamber of commerce board of directors for 2015 – lots of opportunity to give back to businesses and the communities we serve. I like that.
On a personal level, maybe we can spend more time going to concerts, taking college classes, engaging in hobbies, camping, hiking, biking, taking up new sports like kayaking, building new friendships, living a little easier; in short doing more of the things we like but haven’t had time for over the last thirty years. Maybe we can travel enough to spend time with our children and grandchildren, no matter where they land. I suppose we’ll always worry about money, we just seem to be that way even though we already have enough to retire fairly comfortably. Reimagining life may require a little acceptance of “the way we are” and that’s OK as long as it ensures some caution and wisdom, and doesn’t keep us from living that newly reimagined life.
When you really start to reimagine your life you realize that you don’t have to be facing a radical change in circumstances, you can decide to reimagine your life no matter where you are in it if the time feels right. You also realize that regardless of the new path you choose you don’t have to do it all at once; in fact it’s probably better to take the changes slow and easy. That way you can always turn, stop, or back up without getting yourself too far out on a slippery slope.
In short, no matter how you reimagine your life, no matter where you are in life, regardless of your age or health, baby steps are a good idea.
Thanks to my grandson E (who I’m missing very much this holiday week) for helping me visualize stepping out, with baby steps, into a life reimagined…Pops