Don’t Waste Time Acting Your Age

Has anyone ever told you to act your age? Perhaps as a child stumbling along the road of life you heard those well intended words from a parent or teacher or older sibling, all intent on guiding you safely along your journey. I still remember the ditty “act your age not your shoe size” bantered between friends still living in single digit years. When we are young it seems the whole world is interested in helping us grow up, sometimes faster than we may want. Act your age.

Those words of wisdom were typically meant to inspire us to rise above childish ways and behave more responsibly, to be more grown up. Did they do the job? Whether they did or not we now find ourselves living the role of mature adults. We are responsible for our actions. We can no longer blame errors in judgement on our inexperience or naiveté. We may even catch ourselves repeating those familiar words to assist in some wayward youth’s development.

There is no denying sometimes I feel my age. I don’t always have quite the vim and vigor I used to. Things that took little effort before now require more attention. I have to watch what I eat, pay closer attention when driving especially at night, don’t lift anything too heavy, avoid too much sun, and basically be moderate in all things. It is okay to have fun but don’t overdo it.

Occasionally I find myself feeling a little blue forced to deal with what are typically minor but still annoying difficulties navigating my fifth decade of life. I look in the mirror and see the face of some older guy who seems to have snuck into the bathroom with me. Hair thinning a bit, plenty of “smile lines” scattered across my visage, teeth not quite as perfect as when the braces originally came off – where did this guy come from?

But sometimes I don’t feel my age, even though I may look it. :)

Retirement

Out of the blue I suddenly find myself spinning down the hallway guided by imagined music envisioning one of Fred Astaire’s impromptu dances. Driving down the road an old rock and roll tune hits the airways and I crank up the volume so the bass shakes me in my seat. I laugh too much at a silly joke or better yet tell one throwing in wild gestures and exaggerated expressions where appropriate. And if I am feeling really adventurous I may even go for the extra spicy sausage at dinner, something only a brave youngster with ironclad belly should dare. Who has time to act their age?

I realize I have come a long way. Because of what I have lived through I feel better equipped to deal with whatever the world may throw my way. I now have the freedom to do what I want with my time. My wife and I are in a great place, enjoying time we spend together as well as allowing for time to spend alone. The kids are all independent and we truly enjoy spending time together whenever it can be arranged. In reality things are very good.

And so I have decided to start acting my virtual age. I no longer go by the number on my driver license but rather the age I feel in my head and heart. Rather than restrict myself to behavior others define as age appropriate – acting my age – I am going to live as I choose at the particular moment. When I am energized I am going to do what feels good rather than what is appropriate. If something piques my curiosity I am going to check it out. If it looks good on the menu I will give it a taste. Should the urge to dance strike me I will grab my wife and let loose where ever we may be. At this stage in life I am far less interested in impressing others than enjoying the moment.

I am getting too old to act my age. I prefer to act like a younger me. As long as I am able I hope to remain willing. People are living longer these days but the quality of those days is more important than the quantity. Why not enjoy life for all we are worth? Feel free to bend or break the rules of aging. We may not be able to stop the process but we can sure make the most of the journey. In the end it is sometimes better to act the age you feel than the age you are.

LoveBeingRetired.com

Finding Help to Cope With Depression in Retirement

The promise of one day living the life of a happy retiree can sometimes be all that gets us through the stress and struggles of daily life. All of our superhuman efforts focused on doing the job, raising a family, paying the endless bills and saving whatever we can is ultimately deemed successful only if we eventually graduate into the ranks of the retired. Once there we hope for a peaceful more sane second act, one in which we pursue what excites us and avoid as much as possible all things negative. It is a beautiful picture and who is more deserving?

The reality is retirement like any stage of life is not always smooth sailing. Along with the good we typically must deal with situations that are not to our liking. Challenges await, many in areas where we have no experience. Until we retire none of us has been 100 percent responsible for how we spend our time. It may be fun planning a two week vacation to Tahiti but what about figuring out what you will do to stay engaged with life for the next two decades? Without something worthwhile on your schedule it’s not always easy to find the motivation to get out of bed. And should you find yourself mired in a boring predictable routine those dreamed of happy retirement days can feel like a burden rather than a relief.

All of us have experienced moments when we are not quite “on” – when we are a bit tired or out of sorts. But until you get on in years you will not face the many challenges an aging body can throw your way. You may imagine how it will be but until you walk in those shoes you never know for sure. And there are many more surprises likely along the journey.

Who can we turn to when we have a problem?

For many in need the first choice is family, with us through thick and thin. Few know us better or are more concerned with our well being. But I personally don’t want to be perceived as a burden. I never want to be known as the cranky old guy who only talks about his aches and pains. For those of us married we can turn to our spouse. But again we don’t want to suck the life out of a relationship by being overly negative. And face it there are some things we may not want to discuss with a spouse for whatever reason. There are support groups, book clubs, volunteer opportunities, community organizations, all sorts of possibilities. And for some they provide a conduit to share important issues.

When we were part of the working world we had regular interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and customers. There was always someone to talk to sometimes more than you may have wanted. Around the coffee machine we talked about the good things we were blessed with, shared a laugh or even hinted at a dream with a fellow human being. And if we faced challenges we had someone to reach out to for support or a helping hand.

If we find ourselves going through tough times a little human interaction goes a long way. Someone to talk to, to unburden ourselves, to bounce ideas off, to just listen to us can be incredibly helpful. We don’t necessarily need a solution to our problem, just an attentive ear. Sometimes a silent listener enables us to better sort out confusing thoughts just by verbalizing them.

HAP1

I recently spoke with Jeremy Fischbach, a psychology graduate from Princeton, who along with a group of fellow graduates is studying the importance of having someone to talk to during difficult times. They are discovering the promised land of retirement can be fraught with loneliness, boredom and sadness. “Retirement, like divorce, job changes and major moves, is a life changing event that many find extremely stressful. Not having to go to the office, shop or business anymore requires major adjustment and can engender feelings of loneliness and a lack of purpose.”

Jeremy and his team are working on an inspired solution called the Happiness Amplification Project:

“Help for retirees experiencing these challenges is available, and it’s free. Happiness Amplification Project (happinessamplificationproject.org) is a new free service established by psychology graduates of Princeton University. They make providers with retirement experience and expertise available by telephone to be compassionate listeners who can quickly restore perspective and significantly boost a retiree’s happiness and health. This is not psychotherapy. You will not be psychoanalyzed. It is human interaction with an unpaid peer who enjoys helping people and who is really good at it. The purpose of the telephone conversations, which can be five minutes or an hour, is to provide a compassionate listener, one who can impart the strength and confidence required to help you meet the challenges that retirement presents, turn the corner and experience the real happiness that is within your grasp.”

Having someone who listens when you are alone, afraid or depressed can make a real difference. Although the options may seem fewer in retirement there are many out there who care. Retirement should be what you hope for. Sometimes we just need a little help along the way.

LoveBeingRetired.com