Desperate for Conversation

The closer I get to retirement, the more nervous I find myself and that surprises me because I’m usually pretty good with change. This one though — well this one is a huge change that will impact my life, for good or bad, until I die. That’s worth getting nervous about, right?

Up until a week or so ago, I was getting excited about the prospect of doing whatever I want, whenever I want – sleeping late with no alarm; eating better because when I have the time to prepare and cook, I like it because it doesn’t feel so much like working after work; giving my house a thorough cleaning at a leisurely pace; spending as much or as little time as I deem fit on my novel; upgrading my company, Scentsibility and putting in some quality marketing time; sitting out on my balcony at odd hours and watching the wildlife and the clouds; napping in the afternoons; etc.

But now? There’s a man who comes into the Starbucks I frequent who’s retired and he’s the garrulous type who’s looking for anyone that glances in his direction. Aaaaand he’s off. I find myself trying not to catch his eye as he sits eating his oatmeal, eyeing likely suspects in his vicinity. Is that going to be me one of these days? Can’t you just see my seventy or eighty-something shriveled face sidling up to a young, twenty-something in line and saying, “My aren’t those adorable jeans. Did you buy them around here?” How far do you think that’ll get me?

Elderly woman sadly looking out the window, a black-and-white phSo, that’s what got me got me to worrying about my retirement instead of looking forward to it. I took stock of how many people I’d be likely to talk to on a daily basis once my usual work buddies are gone. Um, maybe two. That scares me a little. I already talk to my cats but I don’t think that qualifies. I don’t fancy being the sad old lady who sits in the house and stares out the window all day.

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Then there was the little old man in Albertson’s who stood off to the side staring at me as I checked out the special on guacamole. I eventually decided not to buy it and meandered off. Very shortly, I heard, “Excuse me.” I turned to see the little old man following me over to the produce section. He wanted to know why I hadn’t gotten the guacamole. My instant impression was that he didn’t give a hoot why I hadn’t bought the guacamole; he just wanted to talk to someone. So I stopped. I told him it didn’t seem to have enough stuff in. He said, “What stuff? Guacamole is just guacamole.” I assured him they were all different and I actually liked to make my own with avocado, jalapeno, tomato, onion, cilantro and lime juice. He thought that over, nodded and sauntered back toward the display.

See, that could be me in a year or two – randomly stopping people in the grocery store just to hear a human voice. That scares me. I can hear you saying, “So get out and do something.” I’ve thought about that, too. I’m not accustomed to sitting around much. I’m very active (always have been) and typically have a to-do list a mile long of things I want to do and places I want to go. But then there’s the retirement budget. It’s going to be a game changer with a whole new set of rules (none of which I’ll know in advance). I doubt that I’ll have enough money for travel or to spend on trivial keep-myself-busy projects. Where does that leave me?

I’m still aiming for optimism but I find myself vacillating between ultra excited and secretly terrified.

 

Fashion Backward

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There was a time, in my youth to be sure, when what you wore meant everything. You had to be wearing similar duds to everyone in your age group or you were ridiculed and sniggered at. That didn’t really improve after grade school. The methods of ridicule just got a little more sophisticated but were recognizable as ridicule nonetheless. Instead of outright laughter and pointing, the peer “in” group would make snarky little comments in a tone of voice that clearly indicated you weren’t up to snuff – things like, “Isn’t that adorable? My mom has one similar to that” or “I don’t suppose they carry that at Neiman Marcus, do they?”

I never had much of a fashion sense. I couldn’t (and don’t) understand perusing a magazine to see if the summer color is ecru or eggshell, if the jeans touch the tops of the shoes or meander to the middle of the heel, or if a neckline is bateau or V. If I want to wear it, I’m going to buy it and I don’t care whether it’s the season’s color or not.

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Even so, I would join in the laughter at the elderly women I’d see in support hose and sandals or flowery mumus or pearl-buttoned sweaters in the summer. Give me a break; I was young and stupid! But now? Let it be known that I plan to be one of those fashion backward elderly women . . . very shortly.

I used to wonder why anyone would “let themselves go” like those elderly women and not give a damn what they wore or who saw them in it. Now I get it. When we’re younger, the whole game is about attraction, whether attraction means a mate, a job to help climb the corporate success ladder or the approval of peers, and you only accomplish that by looking good. So, like most, I conformed as far as I was able. I wore the pointy-toed high heels that eventually caused me to have foot surgery on a permanently pinched nerve, the form-fitting jeans that required sucking in my nonexistent stomach at every meal and ending up with perfectly etched replicas of snaps or buttons on my waistline when I could finally get out of them, the seasonal shade of lipstick and gloss so I’d have those come-hither lips at all hours of the day because you just never knew when your makeup would garner the attention of someone who had clout and, of course, the perfect perky bra so it appeared that I had more than I did or ever would.

As we age, we come to realize that no one is looking at us as a potential date or new employee, we’re not likely to get the next Vogue cover and, in fact, regardless of whether we’re fashionable or sloppy, the generation currently running things often looks right through us as they maneuver those “moving up” decades. So we not only realize that it doesn’t matter what we wear, but we also realize (or at least I have) that if that’s the case, then I don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks and I’m going to opt for comfort every time. If that means a T-shirt that’s two sizes too big over an unmatched pair of comfy sweats and well-worn tennies, then get ready — here I come.

Truthfully, it feels good to know that I don’t need to conform to any of those unspoken but ever-present rules about what’s acceptable and who might notice. I guess if I’d ever really cared, I’d have spent more time trying to be a fashion statement every time I left the house but I’ve always been more interested in people’s lives than their fashion sense. I’m finding it liberating to not only not care what anyone thinks of my fashion sense but to know that I don’t even need to make the attempt any more. In any case, I can’t wait to start my new chapter. I think I’ll call it Bet You Secretly Wish You Were Me.

 

Time – Fast and Slow

Time

Don’t you find that time is a fickle thing – snail’s pace one moment and warp speed the next? I love reading the theories about time and how it’s a manmade thing but at times, my own life teaches me how stupid the idea is that we can measure it accurately.

I remember a time when I had to audition to become a majorette in high school and the few hours I sat in the room watching everyone else’s routines almost ground to a halt. The few hours I was there in the afternoon felt like days had gone past.

Then there was the time I had my debut performance in my first Vegas show and although I wanted the experience to last forever so I could remember every detail, the show flew by in the space of a blink and I was left wishing it had lasted longer.

So why is that? And why can’t I harness it so I can slow my life? The thing is, it also applies to smaller events, I’ve noticed. I can arrive at work and if I’m not swamped with work, it feels like it goes on well beyond my shift. That scares me a little when it comes to applying it to retirement. It would seem that the trick is managing the mind but damned if I’ve figured out how to do that. I don’t want my retirement to slow to a halt to the point where I feel like I’m perpetually bored and hate it, but I also don’t want it to zoom by so I wish I’d retired sooner and had even more time to pursue interesting places and ideas and hobbies and “stuff.”

As I get closer, time is speeding up and although I want retirement and lazy days of my own making, I grow a bit more frightened of the unknown each day. Does being “off the clock” make the clock stop?

What I’m afraid I’ll do is cram everything I’ve ever wanted to do into my life in the first few months, end up crossing most of them off the list as things that aren’t really my cup of tea and that I know I’ll never finish or continue with and then end up sitting around staring out the window wishing I had someone to talk to. I often wonder if I’m the only one who feels that way but I doubt it. I think it’s probably pretty common. But it’s funny how I’ve been excited about the prospect, literally marking days off a makeshift calendar on the wall until things are getting down to the wire and suddenly not having a schedule scares me. I find myself wondering if maybe I should just keep going one more year.

No, I won’t. But the closer I get, the more anxiety I’m feeling about it. There’s that old time speeding up again, only this time, I’m not sure if I want it to slow down or keep going at the current breakneck speed.

Do Shoes Indicate a Person’s Worth?

Male shoes nice

I once worked for a man who admitted that he judged everyone by their shoes and I found that ludicrous. Now that I’m contemplating retirement and the freedom to “dress down” permanently, I wonder if my worth will hit rock bottom? If I choose to go out in a worn pair of sneakers, am I less of a person? I suppose the best question should be, “Do I care what anyone thinks?”

Dirty sneakers

I believe the idea is that scuffed shoes mean you’re too lazy to take care of your things. I’m not sure that correlates to someone who would be a lazy employee. Maybe you’re just so damn busy living an interesting life that you haven’t found the time to buff them up or repair them. I realize I’m simplifying the issue but I dislike the premise and think he needs to find a different standard. Plus, the man that started me thinking about this many years ago was a good-looking, pompous ass that I detested because of his sense of entitlement. So, yes, I’m biased against any pronouncement he uttered. Let’s set that straight from the get-go.

The most interesting people I’ve ever met don’t follow the “standards.” And, I might ask, who exactly sets those societal standards? I personally have a hard time subscribing to this notion because,¬†as you might well imagine, I’ve never had two cents worth of interest in having a different pair of shoes with every outfit. Like my car, they’re just things to get me from Point A to Point B without tearing up the soles of my feet. I know – heresy. But the truth is that if I could get by with wearing fluffy house slippers to work every day, I would.

I guess I’m trying inarticulately to say that the outer accoutrements don’t tell you much about the person inside. Maybe my scuffed shoes mean I’m living on social security and would rather eat than look chic. I understand that in a business environment, a conservative boss might not want me strolling in in something better suited for a night on the town, Wild shoes but I maintain that judging a person by the shoes they wear is an assumption of what they’re capable of and how smart they are and it shouldn’t be. Now you might say, “How smart can you be to show up at work in unsuitable attire?” Yes, I get it; there are unspoken standards in any workplace and there’s a comfortable middle ground that most people stick to, but my point is that the statement about being able to determine a person’s worth by the shoes they wear is not a standard for determining whether or not they can do the job you’ve hired them for. If I’m in accounting, my scuffed, beat up, out-of-date shoes don’t prevent me from adding and subtracting. Nor do they tell you that perhaps I paint like Picasso in my free time or I’ll soon be publishing a cookbook on French cuisine. Or maybe I just have a boatload of debt and can’t afford new shoes right now. You get the idea.

So here’s my question: Who does it say more about when a person is judged by his fashion sense? By this executive’s criteria, I’d have to come to the conclusion that Jesus and Gandhi were total losers.

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Friendships – Survival or Not?

friendships

If I hadn’t had several career incarnations, I might not have realized that many of the people I commonly called “friends” really aren’t. They’re fun acquaintances that I laugh with day-to-day and maybe even meet for drinks after work occasionally. But most won’t, and didn’t, survive the career split.

I don’t begrudge that at all. I’ve heard many ex-employees bemoan the fact that the people they spent time with at the old job faded away after a few weeks or months. I had this happen as well but the truth is that if I’d really wanted to cultivate a long-term friendship I’d have tried a little harder to make sure we got together on a regular basis.

Perhaps my definition of “friend” is a bit narrow but most of the people I associate with are fun and worth a laugh or two at work but we don’t have enough in common to sustain that relationship after I’ve moved on. I think it’s normal to put your time into the establishment and learn to “fit in.” Consciously or not, that often means acting according to the group norm but not really revealing your innermost thoughts. Workplace relationships can be fickle and it only takes one disagreement or one assignment where you’re pitted against your friend to discover that it’s each one for herself.

That’s just human nature, I think. Everyone wants to succeed; everyone wants to be well thought of at work. And it’s that same survival mode that taught me to tread carefully. I’ve had plenty of friends who turned out not to be when a promotion was at stake or when the company was weighing the worthiness of each of its team members in times of financial crisis. And yes, I use the term “team” loosely because it’s really quite amazing how fast a valued team member can get thrown under the bus. I’ve watched far too many be given walking papers shortly after being told they were one of the most valued employees and would never have to worry about their position disappearing.

But I digress. Friendships. I enjoy my time with many of my fellow workers but I don’t expect that many, if any, will still be in my orbit about six months to a year after I retire. I don’t know if that will make me feel isolated and lonely or not but I tend to doubt it. I always have a gazillion things to interest me and to occupy my time. But who’s to say that I won’t enjoy all those gazillion projects for about a month and then find myself sitting around in a quiet house twiddling my thumbs, wondering who I can call in order to stop chatting with my cats and hear a voice besides my own.

I can’t actually remember a time when I’ve been lonely but that time may be coming. Who knows? I first started contemplating this possibility when I was approached one day in my local grocery store by an elderly man. I noticed him standing back staring and I thought perhaps I was in his way. However, when I moved away to another display, he came over and told me he loved the guacamole I had decided not to buy and wondered why I didn’t try it. I can’t tell you why, but I sensed that he could care less about why I didn’t pick up the guacamole. He just wanted to talk to someone. So, suddenly wondering if that would be me one of these days, I draped my arms on the shopping basket, parked my foot on the lower rung and had a lengthy conversation about what makes a good guacamole.

I measure a “friend” by someone who I’ve learned I can pour my heart out to, good and bad, and they’ll always be there for me. They are the ones that I’d entrust my cats to if I died tomorrow. They’re the ones I’d feel comfortable calling in the middle of the night if I needed something.

I think it’s harder to cultivate friendships like that as I get older, mostly because true friendships develop slowly. They require a gradual give and take of relevant information, the sharing of likes and dislikes, and the realization that this individual has passed all the little subconscious “tests” that have resulted in trust. In any case, I won’t be surprised if, in a few years from now, some of the people who swear we’ll always be in touch when I leave, one day hear my name and say, “Whatever happened to her?”

Why Aren’t We Born with Good Sense?

 

 

human body

It’s taken me 65 years to learn how intricate the body is and how interconnected all the parts are. If you damage one, you may very well be damaging the whole. But I didn’t see that in my youth. I saw disparate parts, each deserving its own focus and attention and, of course, wholly repairable if my latest fad didn’t work to my advantage.

Up until I left for college, I was pleasantly thin and never worried about what went into my mouth. As a kid I remember going through a butter phase where I would cut off a piece and eat it while I watched television with my parents. I recall my mother laughingly telling my aunt that she thought it was strange but how could a little butter hurt me?

Then I got to college, put on some weight and decided to try some very interesting diets. I started drinking Tab (horrid stuff even then), with a metallic aftertaste that was probably my digestive tract turning to lead. I realized I couldn’t live with Tab long-term and somehow a diet drink didn’t cancel out the crushed oreo covered ice cream I’d have for dessert at the dorm. But then I read about a terrific diet that I knew would be easy to follow – the sherbet diet. That’s all you ate. Yep – sherbet. As much as I love sweets, even I couldn’t stick with that one for long. Who knew I could actually crave a green bean or a spinach leave after a few days of nothing but sherbet?

I’m pretty sure at some point I’ve tried every diet known to mankind. And in my dancing days, I was fixated on the latest trend for improving health – a boatload of vitamins and minerals based on iridology. That would be great if the person “prescribing” the plethora of pills had any medical training, but no, he did not, and yes, I bought close to 15 different products that were going to give me the energy I already possessed as a thirty-year-old and extend my life (which we’ve yet to prove but I hope is accurate). It was the nausea from the handful of pills that finally convinced me to stop.

I’ve learned a lot by working in the medical field and listening to how, as the song goes, “the shin bone’s connected to the knee bone…” The more I hear, the more I understand the complexity of the body and how one small change can have enormous effects up and down the line. It’s no wonder that so many people are loathe to take medications because even though many are great short-term, many are dangerous (even lethal) long-term. In my own case, once I reached perimenopause, my gynecologist decided I needed to get on a low-dose hormone pill. My problems started showing up after about 3-4 months and over the next year got worse and worse. I told our hospice pharmacist that my hips hurt and it felt muscular. He’d never heard of that side effect. I noticed that I couldn’t stand up straight when I got out of bed in the morning and it got so bad that I couldn’t pick up my feet. I would shuffle around the bed to turn off my alarm and then into the bathroom. Oddly, after about half an hour, I would be able to stand up straight. I finally found a doctor who had heard of these drastic symptoms and she agreed I should stop taking this medication. Who would’ve thought that a medication seemingly meant to help me was slowly fusing my joints (my description, because that’s what it felt like).

So here I am at 65, no longer turning my health over to someone else. I’m aware that I eat too many sweets but my cure for that will not be to take a medication; it will be to cut out the majority of the empty calories I eat. It’s taken me decades to listen when I hear people discussing the complexities of the body but it’s fascinating. There’s a ripple effect through the body and it no longer surprises me to find that a pain in my foot is connected to a problem in my eye (I’m making that up but you get the picture) or a muscle spasm in my back is associated with my liver. It’s all connected.

I have a relative who is very heavy . . . and a vegetarian. He has said he can’t understand how he can be so overweight when he eats pretty good meals. Okay, sometimes those “pretty good meals” include soups with a bazillion grams of fat or low-fat products with a bazillion grams of sugar. He’ll liberally salt his meals before he’s even tasted them and then say he can’t figure out why his feet swell.

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Bottom line? I don’t really care if I have wrinkles and grey hair but I do care about how I feel. I realize it’s far more important than I ever understood to know how everything that goes into the body affects all the parts. I figure if I’d had more sense about how complex the body is, how the smallest thing can make such a huge difference, and that some of the damage we cause in our youth is not reversible, I might’ve paid more attention to what I was swallowing a long, long time ago.

Or maybe not. As a kid, I probably wouldn’t have listened because as kids, we know everything, right?

The Dreaded Budget

Senior_Budget

This picture shows exactly how I feel about the budget I just drew up – about to be buried under it. You’d think I’d have tackled this subject a long time ago. You’d be wrong. It’s sort of like going to the doctor when you suspect you might have a problem but you feel pretty good. You put it off, telling yourself you couldn’t possibly have something wrong when you feel good. But deep down inside, you know the truth. It’s a not so simple matter of buckling down and facing it.

So I found an Excel spreadsheet that lets me input all my income once I retire, any savings and then list every expense. I was relentless, coming back to it several days in a row with all the little things I tend to forget – and, of course, they’re the ones that add a bazillion dollars to the total. I put in things like the trash bags I order because they fit the particular brand and shape of the garbage can in my kitchen; my weekend Starbucks coffees and treats; my annual car registration (easy to forget when you’re inputting monthly expenses); my company’s annual fee; the donation to Women For Women International; Sirius XM in my car so I can listen to CNN or Broadway showtunes as the mood strikes me; birthday gifts for family and friends; and family dinners.

I anticipated that my current expenses would probably exceed my Social Security income by about $500-$750. Much to my horror, my expenses exceed my income by $1,340. Although I had banked on (pun intended) expanding the scope of my outside company to bring in some extra income, I imagine it would take me years to be able to cover that differential. To tell the truth, it’s sort of horrifying.

Today, I sat and made a first-round attempt at figuring out what expenses I could live without and which ones could easily be cut back. Needless to say, “easily” was the operative word. I managed to see an extra savings of $200 a month. The whole thing would be laughable if not for the fact that it’s a looming reality.

Yes, I realize I can get a part-time job but that sort of defeats the purpose of retirement, doesn’t it? And there’s always that little matter of businesses being loathe to employ anyone over the age of about 40 (that might be a generous figure).

My only possible avenue is through my company, I think. I recently listened in on a webinar about the use of CBD in products. Since I’m a Registered Aromatherapist, the idea of creating CBD tinctures and lotions for my personal company is tantalizing. I discarded the idea about a year ago because of the fact that the DEA had declared CBD a Class I drug. However, word has it that the Farming Act of 2018, which excludes CBD from the list, just passed last month. If that’s true, I see a double benefit. I can use them for my own chronic health issues and perhaps the bridge some of the gap in my budget.

CBD seniors