Do You Believe in Magic?

I’ve had the strangest thing happen over and over in my life and although it’s nice once it happens, I never seem to learn to trust it. My life has a way of bringing me exactly what I need to either keep going or move in a different, more positive direction at the very last second. And even though I’m aware of it when it happens, I nevertheless can’t seem to learn to trust that it will.

Many people believe in good luck charms. I’ve heard the biggest skeptics talk about lucky lucky symbolssevens in the casino or not walking under ladders or finding a four-leaf clover. And yet if asked directly whether or not they believe good luck charms work, they’ll laugh and poo-poo the idea.

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s the symbol that means anything. It’s the positive energies you send out into the universe. You’ve heard the saying that nothing ever dies, it just changes shape? I’ve worked in hospice long enough to believe that our vital energies don’t die; they just change shape and exist elsewhere in the universe. I don’t believe it’s my imagination that if I’m in a room when the patient dies, I can feel his or her energy – not in the body but in the room. It’s almost like the essence is still there, making sure it’s okay to move on and that everything’s okay, and then it begins to dissipate.

I own a laughing buddha and I’ve been known to rub his tummy for luck. But here’s the thing: every time I do that there’s a wish or positive affirmation attached. Dr. Candace budaiPert long ago established that thoughts are things and do indeed affect our bodies and minds. You get back what you send out. So if I send out positive thoughts long enough, I’ll start drawing those energies back to me. And I truly believe that those energies show up exactly when I need them. I’d sometimes like for them to make an appearance a little sooner so I can relax about my future, but I won’t mess with success.

And here’s an interesting experiment I duplicated to prove to myself that thoughts contain positive or negative energies and can affect your environment. I heard about an experiment where steamed rice was placed into two identical containers and then they were sealed. Each day, positive, loving things were verbalized to one container and negative, mean, hateful things were verbalized to the other. After about six weeks, the “positive” rice still looked good but the “negative” rice had begun to break down and decay. I tried it. It works. Imagine how that translates into our everyday lives.

These fortuitous outcomes of mine seem to happen to me when I’m the most lost or confused about what my future should hold, which way I should turn. And perhaps that’s when my subconscious thoughts are the strongest. It’s nowhere more evident than in my recent search for something to supplement my upcoming Social Security payments. The budget I did revealed that I’ll be spending $1,300 to $1,500 more per month than I’ll be getting from Social Security. That mangled my thought processes for months when I was trying to decide whether to retire or whether to work until I’m 70. I went back and forth, back and forth with a zillion “yes, buts.” Ultimately, I realized that whether or not I retire at 70 or sooner than that, I’ll still need extra money and I’ll still need to do something. Scary. What should I do? And just when I was about to start scouring want-ads in the Sunday paper, I had an opportunity to become the Editor of the aromatherapy journal for the organization I belong to – a paid position. I applied and was selected for the position.

Once again, just when I need them, things somehow fall into line. It’s an interesting phenomenon that one day perhaps I’ll learn to trust. Is it magic? I don’t care. It works.

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The Obligatory Farewell Party

The funny thing about the last few weeks of employment is that people suddenly come out of the woodwork to make suggestions that are now clearly too late to implement and could’ve been made any time at all within the last thirteen years. I know they mean for them to be helpful hints for me to use while training my replacement but I find myself wondering if a lot of what I’ve accomplished in my career is viewed as very-nice-but-could’ve-been-better. Okay, yes, I’m probably overly sensitive in my last few weeks but I can’t possibly be the only one who’s left a career wondering if anything they did for their length of time in the organization made any difference.

I’m also aware that just as there are many people I’ve been cordial to but won’t particularly miss, I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual. So if they’re not going to miss me, I’d rather not have a party where they feel like they have to show up because someone (whether me or the CEO) might notice their absence.

Retirement cake blunderI found this photo of someone’s cake to be hilarious but it also aptly sums up my aversion to the obligatory retirement party and, presented with a date for my own staff farewell party, I politely declined and said I’d just as soon leave quietly (that in itself will be novel to most of my co-workers).

Every retirement party I’ve attended in the last thirteen years has had the same format and it goes something like this:

  1. An email invitation is sent to most of the company’s employees inviting them to attend the going-away party.
  2. A lot of people who’d rather finish their work, take the time to saunter over.
  3. A conference room is set up with soft drinks, cake and maybe cookies or fruit.
  4. Everyone sits around the conference table and waits for someone to say something.
  5. The retiree is eventually asked about a favorite work story. Everyone listens politely and nods approvingly but really has no connection to the memory.
  6. Another awkward silence ensues until someone asks if anyone has a good story about the retiree.
  7. Having finally run out of pithy comments and stories, the retiree is given a gift. In our case, it has often been a crystal vase with the company logo on it – nice, but I probably won’t want to spend my meager Social Security funds on bouquets of flowers.
  8. A final thank-you-for-your-service is voiced and then a few people grab refreshments and the rest head back to their work stations, having fulfilled their duty.

I think this tradition needs to go. Too many people feel like they have to show up because they know the retiree knows it was sent out to most of the departments and they think they have to attend because she will notice if they’re not there. I believe the people who actually give a damn will stop by and say goodbye. And that’s enough.

The Subconscious Speaks

It’s been two weeks since I turned in my two months’ notice at work. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve second guessed my decision and wondered if I should try and work until I’m 70 in order to maximize the Social Security I can receive. I come down firmly in the camp that I should go for it while I still have the health to do it – whatever “it” turns out to be.

That said, I’ve found myself engaging in some interesting things lately … well, two. One concerns my waking state and the other concerns my dreams.

As far back as I can remember, if I’m going to have a dream that I would recognize as showing anxiety, it has always harkened back to my dancing days. I will either be onstage in the wrong costume or I’ll be late and trying to perform the wrong routine. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a couple of those dance dreams but they seem to have some other interesting components to them. In both cases, I was trying to lead the ensemble to the stage location and we couldn’t quite get there. All the other dancers were younger than I was and I was afraid they weren’t listening to me.

Okay, should we try to analyze them? I think I’m worried that my “legacy” will be forgotten by the younger generation taking over my duties and that I’ll be seen as useless. Sound about right? The reason I find this interesting is because in my waking Yin-Yang-Woven-Dreamcatcher-8_3.jpg.optimalstate, despite the dreams, I’m aware that people at work think I’ve made some significant contributions and that we need to get someone who can continue them as is. So I find it fascinating that my subconscious says otherwise. Perhaps I need a dream catcher over my bed – at least until my actual retirement.

Then there’s my waking state. I have found myself, illogically, stocking up on things like books on CD for my car, magazine subscriptions, cases of prescription cat food, sneakers for the gym, custom-fitted trash bags for my kitchen garbage can, my favorite cologne Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-9.57.43-AMand the oversize tees I sleep in. What’s up with that? I guess I know that when those run out, I’ll probably see them as extravagances that I shouldn’t be spending my Social Security money on, so the idea is that if I stock up now, it’ll be quite some time before I have to face the music.

Who knows what other illogical things I’ll come up with in the next six weeks in preparation for retirement? Time will tell

Night Before / Day After

Last night I could’ve easily taken half a bottle of Maalox and still needed more. Even though I’ve weighed all the pros and cons – at least a bazillion times – they ran on a continual loop in my mind. Should I retire? Should I not retire? Would everything work Scared womanout for me financially or would I be as destitute as it looked on paper? Would I find lots of new hobbies to keep me busy or find myself staring out the window every day? Could I find a part-time job if I needed one or would any of my writing aspirations pan out? Could I revamp my independent business so that it would make enough money to keep me comfortably afloat? Yes, this all led to lack of sleep.

This morning, I tweaked my resignation letter for the umpteenth time to get the tone just right, the language just right, the insinuations just right. And then I forwarded them to my work email, got dressed feeling like I was headed toward the guillotine and headed in to the office.

I pulled up an email, input four relevant individuals, said something inane and slightly lame, attached the resignation letter, paused – one, two, three – and then resolutely hit “Send.” I fully expected to lunge for the keyboard, trying to retrieve the email and replay that mental loop just one more time. Didn’t happen. I actually felt totally comfortable and, dare I say it, a bit elated and relieved. I knew I’d made the right decision a few minutes later when my first problem correspondence arrived in the in-box and it didn’t bother me like it usually does.

I eventually got nice replies from all four recipients. That’s not to say that once they’ve had to time to think about it, they may change their minds and decide to boot me right away. But the truth is – – I don’t care. I’m comfortable with that one, too. I suppose what I finally realized yesterday was that I was always going to be scared whether I retired today, 2 years from now or 10 years from now. I’m always going to have to scramble for extra money to supplement the Social Security. So if that’s the case, why not get out while I still have my health? That’s exactly what I’m doing and here’s how I felt today:

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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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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

Panama – Part III

Boquete

Keep in mind that this little Panamanian adventure was taken when I was 63 years old, traveling alone and in search of a retirement location that would be more affordable when living off nothing but social security. The goal was to cash out my 401K, use it to purchase a small cottage with a backyard suited for establishing a lush garden to revel in on a daily basis and yet still be close to decent medical care.

So I drove from David, Panama to Boquete, where the instructions were to turn left just past the bank  and before the town square as I was descending into the valley. Now really, how could that go wrong? However, as you can see from the photo above, you can’t miss the fact that you’re traveling down into a valley. And here was the town square:

boquete-town-square-3-7-2016-2-50-58-pm

I quickly found my host’s house and settled into the one-room casita in the backyard – right next to a babbling brook that attracted all sorts of birds throughout my stay. It was an idyllic setting: perfect temperatures in the day – t-shirts, sweat pants and sneakers – but cold enough at night to sleep with the window open and a blanket pulled up under my chin. The morning bird calls would wake me and I’d make a cup of coffee and sit outside the front door and watch the resident creatures come to life and dip in and out of the backyard.

Cottage

The first thing I noticed was that the town seemed to be more expats than locals and that most of them made little or no effort to talk to the locals (at least that I could see). I didn’t like that. My stay overlapped a three-day celebration on the founding on Boquete and there were “parades” daily. I use that term loosely because the first one was a constant stream of men on horseback, interspersed by pickup trucks with women freely pouring booze into plastic cups for anyone who walked up to them as they passed by. I watched one horse, made to lift his knees and prance down the street, foaming at the mouth and no none seemed to mind a bit. These same horses paraded around in a giant square for the better part of 5 hours. I sort of wished we’d made the rider prance around like that for hours with no water and see how much he liked it. And then there was the public drunkenness. When I returned to my casita, the owner asked about my day and when I told her the public drunkenness concerned me, she responded, “Well, there is that.” Hmmm. How safe would a lone foreigner be in the city with drunken men routinely tottering around the streets?

I took a tour of a coffee plantation, enjoyed that and booked a tour that only had three of us and a guide, walking uphill in the forest in a light drizzle for the better part of two hours. They may have seen this tour as “an easy uphill walk” but as a senior, there were times when I thought that if we didn’t stop for breath, I wouldn’t have any left.

I used my time in Boquete to walk some of the back streets to see what the houses looked like and how the locals lived. The houses were dilapidated but the locals were friendly. I also asked my host lots of questions. I thought maybe I could make herbal and essential oil products from my company, Scentsibility, and sell them but her response was, “Who’s going to buy them?” When I said “hopefully the locals,” she responded, “They grow herbs in their backyards and wouldn’t have the money to buy products.” She suggested I check out the weekly open market to check out the competition and so I did.

boquete-tuesday-market

I was mostly struck by the fact that this was the height of entertainment for the locals. There were no department stores, no big grocery stores, no library that I could see, and television programs in Spanish. I started to realize that although this would be wonderful for about a month, then what? I found the local doctor’s office and decided I’d need to head to David or even back to Panama City for health care and that would certainly not be convenient.

I talked about buying a small house and my host discouraged it. She (as well as all the expats I talked to) said I should definitely rent for six months to a year before settling there. That would mean I’d be depleting my funds for a purchase. She added further fuel to my thoughts by asking me who would buy my little cottage if I decided after a year or so to leave? The locals couldn’t afford it and the expats tended to band together in gated communities on the outskirts of town so they wouldn’t buy it.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Boquete, I realized that I probably would not want to settle there. So I flew back to Panama City for my last night’s stay in the country and was picked up by my trusty driver, Sinar (see Part I).

So it appears I’m back to square one – where to go and how to live on social security.