Survival Tips for the Retiree… and the Elderly

Much like babies not coming with instruction manuals, retirement does not come with an instruction manual. That is what motivated me to begin this blog. During my fourteen months of retirement, I’ve identified tips for surviving retirement that I would like to share.

The first tip is to buy one of those day-at-a-time calendars. It is very easy to lose track of the day of the week and the date while retired. It is important to maintain date orientation, in case you have an encounter (planned or unplanned) with a medical care provider, police officer or social worker.

In this same vein, it is important to maintain awareness of your location, political parties in prominence, and the name of the current president. Lack of awareness of these things can result in the loss of personal freedoms at best, and incarceration at worst. It’s similar to the admonishment of mothers of ol’ to always put on clean underwear to avoid embarrassment in the event of an accident… just in case. I’ve long wondered why a child would ever choose to put on dirty underwear. I’ve further wondered if the admonished children routinely wore no underwear, and the suggestion was simply to put on underwear. Maybe the children in question were those who went on to come of age in the sixties and preferred to go underwearless, live in communes, smoke marijuana, take LSD and string flower chains around their necks and on top of their heads. Oh, sorry, I got off track. The tendency to get off track contributes to my hyper-vigilance in preparing for potential sanity checks… just in case.

Additional tips include practicing drawing clocks and various times on the clocks. For this tip to be successful, you must draw clocks with hands; not digital clocks. Other things to practice are saying the alphabet in reverse and counting from 100 down to 1. Don’t practice any of these things in public, as you may be defeating the purpose – proof of mental clarity and sanity – of these exercises.

It would be wonderful if I could include a tip to save more money (money is very useful in retirement), but if you hadn’t been doing that while you were working (earning money), by the time you retire, it’s really too late. If you had not been vigorously saving while working, my tip is to now significantly lower your standards, and embrace poverty. It worked for the apostles, so you might as well give it a try. It isn’t as hard as you might think: learn to enjoy long walks as a form of entertainment, become emotionally attached to your aged vehicle, get rid of cable TV or get rid of TV all together, get to know your neighborhood thrift stores and purchase some sweaters to wear with your clean underwear (don’t ever scrimp on clean underwear).

Oh, it’s Friday!

Has It All Been Said Before?

It was a dark and stormy night… Oh yeah, that intro has been used before. Last week, on a cold and drizzly day, I was thinking how great it was to be retired, and able to sit in my cozy home, crocheting, while binge watching “The Crown.” I was content. At least I thought I was. Always ready to shift into self-doubt mode, I immediately questioned my contentment, and wondered if I was actually complacent. I continued to wonder, wondering how similar, and/or, dissimilar were contentment and complacency. I was a real Wonder Woman.

I decided at that moment to examine the difference(s) between contentment and complacency in this week’s blog post. Despite my feelings of self-doubt, I felt insightful and discerning. I felt that I had realized a subtlety that undermined contentment and all of its positive connotations by recognizing the similarities to complacency and all of its negative connotations. Today, in preparation for writing, I thought I would Google “content” and “complacent” and what should pop-up, but “content vs. complacent.” I proceeded with the search, and found that MANY had recognized and examined the similarities and dissimilarities before I had (some even before I was born).

It’s difficult to be innovative and inspired when it’s all been said before. Maybe I should get up earlier. Perhaps I should be content with my complacency (as long as the weather is bad and there are more episodes of “The Crown”).

I finished the afghan I was crocheting while watching “The Crown” and avoiding the inclement weather that dominated the out-of-doors. I’m pretty satisfied with it. So, if to be content is to be happy or satisfied, I’m content. This is good. Since I am the one who is satisfied with it, I guess I am self-satisfied, and therefore, complacent. This is not good. I am safe in my cozy home with a newly-crocheted afghan to keep me warm, so I must be contentedly complacent. Wait a minute; if I am filled with self-doubt, can I be self-satisfied? If I am not self-satisfied, that just leaves satisfied, which means I am content. Whew, that was a close one. Life is good!

A Riddle

What can cut like a knife, bend like paper, and evaporate like steam? The answer, of course, is a word. Now is the time to cut the cord to network TV, as we have entered an election year, and are subjected to its accompanying flood of inflammatory words. TV can be a real slut when you’re retired (you know – “watch me, oh baby I can entertain you and make you feel so good”). Network TV flaunts its lack of a price tag (“free with an over-the-air digital antenna”), and then fills that air over head with commercials encouraging viewers to spend money for everything from makeup to medication. It’s cold and wet outside; you’re retired; you don’t HAVE to go anywhere (like work) so you curl up on the couch, turn on the TV, and allow yourself to be seduced by the product of marketing personnel who, by dressing sexy images with come-hither words, earn much more money than you ever did. Happily, we now have streaming TV choices that allow us to watch things like “The Crown” with no commercials. Be careful though, because those tricky words are still out there ready to mislead.

Reading the newspaper is my retirement life substitution for driving to work. It is typically a much safer activity than driving to work; however, those easily manipulated words can incite harm. It is usually not the newspaper’s fault, but the fault of a human being’s stupid hurtful words that are reported and shared via the newspaper. Turn the page! Don’t read those words, or if you must, consider the source and choose to be a purveyor of goodness with your words. You can always read the advertisements. These are the newspaper’s equivalent to television’s commercials. I believe those previously mentioned marketing professionals see the public who constitute consumers as stupid (a word forbidden in our home when my children were young). This may be because marketing professionals, with their careful word coupling, are manipulating the spending of individuals with much less disposable, or discretionary, income than they themselves have. I recently saw an ad, that in large letters proclaimed “Sale – One Day Only” and then gave the sale dates as Thursday through Saturday. Another ad (this one for a digital training service) offered “three courses free when you subscribe to unlimited course access.” Words, coming from the keyboards of the unethical, can be very misleading. Uh oh, I hope my words are not stereotyping all persons employed in marketing as being unethical. Words can result in misinterpretation of intent. Words coming from the keyboards of the self-proclaimed ethical can also be misleading. We should be very careful with our words.

Words are talented shape-shifters. Think of the words that have been presented as truths, but were actually lies. Think of the words that are intended to define but actually malign. Think of the words that are meant to compliment but actually criticize (I once had a medical assistant proclaim, when I stepped on the scale in the doctor’s office, “Wow, you don’t look like you weigh that much”). Juggling words can be like juggling razor blades, you or someone close to you can be harmed. Not all people (particularly politicians) should be given unlimited access to words.

Words (and my cat) are my current companions. Much like the words shouted from mountain tops, most of my spoken words go unheard (I love my Cinnamon Girl kitty, but she chooses to ignore words that come out of my mouth – like “get off of the counter,” and “get down from that shelf”). I should amend my riddle to include, “What can be both dangerously potent and completely impotent?” I love words, but like all things I love, I need to remember to handle them with care.

I Am the Boss of Me

I am experiencing a lull in my self-assigned tasks. The cookies were baked and eaten. The tamales were assembled and devoured. Wrapping paper has been discarded; boxes taken to recycling centers and economy again embraced as I bid farewell to the holiday season. I still have tasks on my task list that involve paint and/or grout, but I am currently leaning heavily on the seasonal weather excuse (it’s too cold outside to engage in activities that rely on good ventilation). This has allowed me to slide on to the slippery slope of more leisurely industry.

My self-assigning of productive activity allows for (without encouraging) sedentary demonstration of my tactile capabilities. My rear has been largely engaged – getting larger every day – in a comfy chair while my hands work crocheting another afghan. This allows for television viewing. I turn to my British streaming channels for gentile entertainment as I work to quickly fabricate adequate fabric to keep my lap warm. This past week, I’ve watched a series about the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s. This provides for, with minimal exertion, sustenance of fifty percent of my New Year’s resolutions: learn more and create more. I am using a stepper and writing in my journal most mornings, succeeding in maintaining my other two resolutions: move more and write more. I am absolutely my best employee. I wish I could say that supervising only myself was easier than supervising others, but I can be very difficult to deal with. I am frequently very hard on myself which results in a hostile work environment. This brings me back to what I’ve learned about the Arts and Crafts movement. It valued the craft person, the craft created, leisure, and the community of craft persons. I think I need to discuss this philosophy (appreciate the work done as well as the worker) with my boss.

Participants in the Arts and Crafts movement often lived in communes. My commune is comprised of me, myself and I (and my new kittie, Cinnamon) residing in my comfy, cozy home. Life in retirement is GOOD! A warm, partially-finished afghan encourages completion in order to expand the generation of warmth: a task that supports and enriches the community (and decreases the amount of yarn stuffed in to the recesses of my sewing room). So what if the paint on the wall is chipped and grungy, and the grout on the floor is soiled and stained; the community is comfortable. Now, I just need to convince my boss.

Comfy cozy cat snuggling in partially completed afghan.

New Year; Same Ol’ Me, Or Not?

I began 2020 with a hike. It surprised me and everyone I know. I had read about it in the newspaper. I’m of an age that enjoys reading the newspaper. Everyday, I get up, make the bed, go to the bathroom, make a cup of coffee, fetch the newspaper, sit down and read it. It is one of the joys of retirement, because it replaces, get in the car and drive to work. The reward is typically simple leisurely self-indulgence; however, every once in a while, I am inspired by something I read to do some activity that is rewarding and self-indulgent.

So when I read about “trekking in to 2020 with a hike in one of the State’s Parks” I was hesitantly all in. I asked friends if they would accompany me, and was almost disappointed when one agreed. That constituted a contractual agreement to get up and get moving to start off the New Year. And we did. We made the hour-long drive to the State Park, while reviewing New Year’s Day trivia. The newspaper article had said that the 1.5 mile hike would be broken by New Year’s Day trivia contests, and “interactive frivolity.”

When we arrived at the park, the Ranger leading the hike explained that the hike’s destination was 1.5 miles away, and then we would again hike 1.5 miles to return. That was exactly 1.5 miles longer than I had anticipated. We did perform very well during the trivia contests, winning our choice of either a frisbee or a plastic set of binoculars. We both chose the latter. We performed moderately well during the first half of the hike which was predominantly uphill, and much better on the second half which was predominantly downhill. At our aforementioned destination (the top of the hill) we played kazoos and sang “Auld Lang Syne” (which we knew to have been written by Robert Burns in Scotland in the year 1788, translating as “times gone by,” because that was part of the trivia we had studied on our drive to the park) in an act of interactive frivolity. We were part of a group that got separated from the Ranger on our return trek, adding .5 miles to our hike. I was very proud!

View from the top of one of many hills in Cerrillos Hills State Park.

The next day I awoke with sore feet, aching legs, and the burning desire to take down my Christmas decorations, so I did. My Christmas decorations are a compilation of artifacts from my Mother’s creative life (stitcheries, stoneware representations of historic New Mexico churches), my children’s childhoods and my marriage. Taking them down is always emotional, and typically done on New Year’s Day, because the day after was historically a work day, but now I’m retired and am able to go on long hikes on New Year’s Day. With the exception of the calendar day, the taking down of Christmas was much like years past: filled with memories. I realized that they were happy memories, and that I didn’t have to go to work the day after taking them down, which reminded me that life is good.

Church ornaments made by my Mother.

Today, I got around to making my New Year’s resolutions. They are very familiar because I resolve to do these things every year: move, write, learn and create more. The difference this year, is that I began the year with a hike. I’ve never done that before, so this may be the year that I experience success in keeping my resolutions. I think it’s a good sign that my feet, and legs don’t hurt as much today as they did yesterday. I’m going to move along and create something (right after I pet my cat).