Musings on Life.

Life is a funny thing.  Poetically, life is like the tides at the shore, each tide rising and ebbing, each full of thousands of waves doing their thing, one by one, more or less sequentially, each totally unique in furry, pattern, sound and gifts deposited on the sand or rocks.  Many of these gifts are beautiful, shells and little creatures of nature’s design, and some are “ugly,” dead fish or even mammal carcasses stolen from the sharks and given to the birds, dead seaweed or jellyfish splayed on an alien surface.

Life is like this, life is the sea itself, but we are each a beach, molded a little with every wave, changing day by day but yet still there the next day.  We receive life’s gifts also, some with happiness, some with sadness, but mostly we just take these for granted, unfortunately.  If we could truly grasp the meaning of life, and embrace the false dichotomy of having both an infinite life but for now, a limited lifespan, we could live differently. As it is, most do not want to think of their present mortality, and have little concept of the infinite aspect of their being.

Aging is the play of life.  We model the format of plays after that of life itself.  Aging can be cruel.  I have sometimes thought that, “Heh, it would be nice to be born fully grown as an old person, then as we ‘age,’ become younger and younger and then die in the form of a new born babe?” Not sure how we could be born, obviously not the conventional way.  But just think, if one had the knowledge of an older person at the beginning of life, would it be possible to avoid doing things that later one regrets?  So you could actually live a wonderful life with minimal difficulties?  I don’t know.  Likely the wisdom of the universal Mind feels differently.

How we come into this world is even a strangely little understood phenomenon in itself:  we understand it biologically of course, but how our human life comes to be conscious of itself it not understood.  Does the new born babe come from “nothing?” Is it then just a successive product of its environment as it grows daily? This seems highly illogical to me.  So I ask, how can so many of Western religions in this “magic” (something from nothing) rather than belief as in Eastern and many other religions such as Ifa, that humans are reincarnated (of course, interpretations of this view differ across the spectrum of such believers), so “not something from nothing, but rather a continuation of something.”  The latter corresponds to all know physical properties of the universe as to energy and matter, whereas being born from just an egg and sperm doing a dance does not.

The aging process is naturally conducive to what we humans need and require to live our lives of course.  When young we are energetic, do wild things and learn from these; when in our 20’s-30’s we began to grasp adulthood and the responsibilities (whether or not we fully accept these is another story), and moving through our 40’s and 50’s we feel like we are much more in control and if we have lived our earlier years fairly well, we can enjoy the fruits of life in all ways.  Then comes the 60’s and by then we begin to sense that most of our life has been lived, and begin to wonder about what’s left.

I am nearing my mid-70’s now, and find it both interesting and strange.  In many ways mentally I feel much younger, and although my eyesight is not very sharp I feel what I see is through the eyes of someone younger in a lot of ways.  Yet, when those same eyes see myself in the mirror or camera selfie, I can only marvel at the power of nature to change us physically, but in exchange is the wisdom I know nature has given in return, a wisdom that will coach me on through my remaining days, each day trading another wrinkle for a bit of wisdom.  A fair trade I would say.

The point of this posting is just to say, live each day to the fullest, sincerely, not just figuratively.  But never despair, because your life is truly infinite, your energy and your essence was never born and will never die, so just relax ok.

Have a great day!

 

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Golden years.

So I went looking for a photo to best illustrate today’s topic, typed in “golden years” and got lots of photos of cute golden retrievers and the Golden Gate bridge.  Apparently “golden years” are quite illusive.  My message to the younger generations (I am a retired Boomer) today is just that, if you have any vestige notion remaining, of working toward the “golden years” in the latter years of your lives, after you have already experienced a bit of today’s reality, please sit and reconsider.

My advice is to find your internal “holy man” and listen to his advice (or, if you prefer, holy woman…..I think I prefer).  Likely he will inform you, perhaps told as a parable, that the “golden years” are right now, son or daughter.

Like the American Dream – the neat house with green lawn and white fence – Golden Years in the traditional sense should no longer even be a faint aspiration.  The odds of you attaining sufficient private wealth to live in an upscale lifestyle are very small indeed. Of course many will, those who have by selected the right field of endeavor that reflects the spending power of mass consumption and who have managed their finances “wisely” and often selfishly, may live in modest or resplendent luxury one day, but that’s just a small fraction of your generations.

Your holy man probably will advise, “live your best life today, right now.”  Only you can decide what is your personalized “best life,” but I will second the holy guy’s advice.  There are absolutely no guarantees about “work hard and you will succeed.”  Not in today’s world.  So, to counter these odds, you merely have to live each day enjoying all the small things that are in your life, whether it is a smile from a boss,  a hug from your child, or the light in the eyes of your lover.  Sure, have your goals and work hard, but working toward something must not gloss over what you already have to enjoy right here and now.  Let you golden years be like golden butter mixed with honey, spread over all the slices of your life.

If you are making huge sacrifices right now to get to something “better,” I would urge you to rethink that:  all this does is set up a condition for the next big sacrifice for that which is even larger, and before long your life is a litany of sacrifices for those far off golden years, during which you may have many regrets about what you “could have done” if you had just slowed your thinking and recalibrated your wish list.

So, at least give what I say a little thought today, ok?

I also would say that it is better to share what you have, not just collect.  The returns on such investments in others’ joy will stock your pantry of blessings and help them along through their golden years of their lives.

Peace.

Where have all the “old people” gone?

I was trying to think of a good topic to write about today….although my guts were directing me to delve into “domestic terrorism” and how our government is effectively green lighting white nationalists, compared to Federal and local response whenever there is an act perpetrated by foreign terrorists.  But, no, I am not going to ruin my day getting even more agitated about this.

I thought also to write under a post title, “Death by blogging,” and I likely will do that in the future; however, today’s topic is as stated.  I can’t seem to find any “old people” on the web, in photos and film, and frankly, in flesh and blood, in most public places.  I know we haven’t all just “disappeared.”  I can look at myself and see that I haven’t disappeared….or at least I don’t think I have, but maybe?  Of course, by some standards I am not even “old” yet, so maybe I haven’t totally disappeared yet?

When I go out looking for photos for my blog posts, if it’s about people, seems like the only old people “pics” are those taken in foreign countries; by “foreign,” I really mean developing or third-world.  No offense meant, of course, for my readers in India and other areas populated by societies that have been around so long that the USA is not even a sneeze in comparison.  But, please, my readers not in the US, don’t you agree? Can you find many “old American” pics, except maybe people golfing or living on the streets?  We have no gurus just “chilling,” drawing photographers to them like a magnet.  Do you not agree that there is a dearth of photographic proof of the existence of old people in America?

I don’t get out much anymore, and when I do, I don’t stray far, but in the stores the only “old people” I see are perhaps around the time Social Security checks hit our bank accounts.  I do occasionally see a little “blue haired” white lady being slowly chaperoned by her health assistant, usually a young non-white person.  I don’t know, maybe if I were a golfer, I might see a few more old men.  But I hate golf.

I suppose this is just how nature works with people.  The new is out and about, blooming, busy as bees, and the old folks just sort of stay out of the way.

That’s ok by me, but just remember, we are still here among you, so watch your steps!

One Boomer’s Retirement Story

This little memoir, a snippet of my life for 2018, I share hoping it will bring courage – and encouragement – to others approaching the fuzzy-edged “retirement cliff.” Perhaps it will also inform those much younger, even those in their 20’s-30’s, in a way that helps them deal with their lives now and be better prepared to handle life way down the road.

On one hand, 2018 was a terrible year for me personally: I (and nearly a dozen other colleagues) were cut from a large program management employer early in the year.  The senior engineer position I filled was in many ways a good fit, although often frankly boring, but it allowed me to bring to bear the full experience of my diverse career.  It also was the highest paying position I had held, so I was enjoying the sense of finally being “properly” rewarded by the compensation muses.  I loved my electrical engineering career, to the point my “job” really was also my “hobby”, although I am also an aficionado of jazz.  One afternoon we were called into a small conference room, and were given the bad news.  For months afterward I searched for an equivalent job, living on a combination of unemployment compensation, Social Security benefits and a small monthly pension from a past employment.  I should say that in April of this year I turned 72.  I was born at the leading edge of the “boomer” generation.  I posted resumes everywhere, and daily had young recruiters calling and emailing me (most apparently unable to comprehend my resume, just hoping I might take their bait), but none of the prospects were within the general part of the country where we resided, and I had no inclination to move out of state at this point in my life, as I knew whatever the job was it would likely be my last. Losing the job was a huge blow financially, and since we had relocated that area just because of the job, being cut less than two years after coming on board, but having expected to be there five to seven year, I was truly ill prepared this life event.  Moreover, I had a rather large debt to service, and a huge balance with the IRS for back taxes that I had been paying on for years.  Unable to pay bills, soon I was served with law suits by two of my many creditors. Yes, I had been skating on thin ice for a few years, the result of many factors, and now the ice gave way, and I fell hard.  To really punctuate the fall, I had to surrender my nice Ford Taurus, the car I had bought in 2014 thinking this would be the car I took into retirement, “my last car.”  Now all of a sudden, if I wanted groceries, I would walk the mile to the store, or catch an Uber.  I was having to watch every dollar, stretching each paycheck to cover our basic expenses.

On the other hand, 2018 was a very good year: several months after losing the job and being served by the courts, I realized I needed to consider filing for bankruptcy.  It had become clear that there was absolutely no way “out” short of taking this route.  As I sat pondering how I could come up with the total attorney fees soon, one day I got a notice in the mail from the former employer, stating I had some ESOP money waiting for me to claim.  At the time it was a godsend.  Moreover, I had to acknowledge that I had a few medical issues that I had been trying to “work through” previously, that were not going to get better, and really presented an impediment to holding down any job commensurate with my resume.  Alas, I realized that after nearly fifty years of working and paying into Social Security, maybe it was time to look at a change in life, something like “retirement!”

Fortunately I found a good attorney, and recent to my writing this, completed the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. I have also “retired”.  I had never really thought I would actually retire (or even get to retire, as I had seen myself continuing to work until I “dropped”, given my financial mess).  Not really having any hobbies like golfing, fishing or such (my work had always been my main “hobby”, although I had dabbled in all kinds of activities over my life, but never found one that I fell in love with), within several weeks after relocating to our home city, I became quite depressed.  I mean really depressed.  My girlfriend, who was considerably younger and a self-employed businesswoman, just could not seem to understand my situation mentally, which didn’t help; and, my god-children, all young enough to be my grandchildren, were also not equipped to understand.  Inside I was a mess, and I had to admit it.  However, I reminded myself that I had been through several hard times emotionally in my years, having lost my first wife to cancer, lost both parents, and having gone through multiple job lay-offs.  Each time teaching a hard but cogent lesson, but in pondering my present situation I recalled clearly that in each of those times I worked through the difficulty and came out better for it.  Now I knew I had to call on my spiritual reservoir and get “a grip on it.”  I also began to take a high dosage of vitamin B-12, started exercising again and walking more.  Soon I indeed began to pull out of my funk.

After settling into our new apartment, I began to start putting my future together mentally. I had toyed with the idea of having some type of “on-line” consulting business for several years, and having been recently exposed to my godson’s penchant for operating and building on-line business, I said, “Ah-ha, why can’t I do that?”  So, right at this very moment I am in the midst of starting these ventures; one, an on-line business consulting activity that will leverage my years of diverse experience and graduate education; the other, a drop-shipping store.  Thirdly, I would count running this blog, which I hope to make a few bucks from ads each month.  And, the frosting on the cake, is I am also helping my friend boost her business, so she is really my first beta client!  This is all new to me, and I feel like I am actually doing the proverbial “reinventing” of myself.  No more long hours, no more of the grind, just sitting here at my computer in my jammies, clicking away and thinking visions of dollar signs.  As we say now days, “LOL!”

I have also learned, very quickly, how to live on what I have for income, which is about a fifth of what I had coming in at the beginning of this year. I have found that yes, it is possible, given the good health I so far enjoy, to manage my part of our shared monthly budget, and feel “ok” with living frugally – and mindfully.  I also feel very, very fortunate that I live in the USA, and give thanks daily for Social Security.  Like so many of my generation who are retiring, without this income a large percentage of us would be, literally, sleeping under a bridge.

Now what of the “moral of this story”. Well, first of all, I would offer the caveat that each person’s life is wholly unique, and not one of us can walk in another’s footsteps.  Having said that, these are a few lessons I have learned in my life, amplified by the 2018 “situation”, that I wish to share:

Whatever point you are at on your life and career timeline, strive to enjoy life. Life is here to be lived, to the fullest – not to the deprivation of others obviously – but rather in harmony with your community and the world. Strive to follow your bliss – what really resonates with your soul – but do your best to attain and maintain balance. Your retirement account is really not your 401K, bonds or bank savings account, but rather the store of good character that you gather throughout your life, however long you live.

Where ever you are in life, know that circumstances will change, and if you are on top now, you will see the downward slope – or cliff – at some point, so prepare if you can financially, and in any case prepare spiritually. By “spiritually” I don’t necessarily imply anything religious – although I believe in prayer and ritual – but rather I am saying you should look into yourself in a way that no one else can, and work on your character in a way that will be your buoy through turbulent waters that surely await. By the way, if we examine our self, we will find that we are not apart from others or the world at large, but that’s another blog post one day. Life really is a journey.

 

“Retirement” today, and indefinitely into the future, is as ephemeral as the white picket fence around the neat “American dream” home that flashed across the silver screens of the 1950’s, when I was a boy. Think about what it is you want to be, to do – and to give to others and the world society at large – in the last part of your productive life, and at least in the back of your mind, let that be a light to move toward. That light does not and cannot be some fixed notion, but rather the luminosity of values that you will strive to be. I do believe that I found my own lighthouse decades ago, although at times it briefly disappeared in the fog that drifted across my path. Today I stand beside that lighthouse, and feel good inside.

For my fellow boomers, each having walked their own paths in life, I would just offer, most of us likely have quite a number of good years ahead, regardless of our situation. Life really is a state of mind. We can create a joyful world, even if we have very little materially. I assure each of you, if you are going through a rough time, you can and will get through it. I saw a bumper sticker once in Austin, on the back of an old pickup truck that said “Getting old is cruel”, or something to that effect. At the time I thought that was probably true, but now I see aging totally differently. If we just take our lives one day at a time, be present in its moments, try to do our best to stay balanced in our thinking and grounded in our perception, our own aging can be beautiful, and may even be slowed a bit. Remember too that there are many things we just cannot fix – let those go, and do not worry – life does go on.