A clumsy jump into retirement

My old workplace

My old workplace

The post below was written for an exercise in my creative writing class.

I can’t do it any longer. It will kill me if I keep going. After all, it is only a job and there must be more to life than going through the motions and playing the games. The pay and conditions are good but they don’t make up for the emptiness of the soul in doing something that no-one cares about.

The games – well they aren’t much fun. They are word games mostly. The government agrees to being a party to a strategy or initiative. Each year some lonely public servant checks what promises were made and provides some affirmative words to demonstrate that, yes, we, the government have really done something about it. It is written down in black and white weasel words, so it must be accountable. If it is not written down, there may be hell to pay.

I worked for the Office for Women’s Policy – in fact I was the last of the team to resign – I don’t think it is called that anymore. The issues considered were important but they got lost in the midst of political battles and point scoring. Either that or they got stuck in the mud of bureaucracy. For six months I worked on a cabinet submission to encourage greater participation of women on government boards. There was no appetite for this. The public cry was that women shouldn’t be supported to get on boards. After all, men don’t get support – they get appointed on merit. What – are you suggesting that every man on a board has more skills, knowledge and experience than the average female applicant? No, that doesn’t hold water.

Working full-time meant I left home at 7.30am each morning and got home at around 5.30pm each evening. I had little energy to enjoy my leisure time. Work consumed me. Some people can switch off after a day at the office but to me it was personal. The quality of my life was questionable.

We got away for weekends down south as often as we could. I couldn’t wait to get hold of the local papers and check out the real estate pages. We looked at houses and drove down the streets of Busselton and wondered what it would be like to live there. We dined out and pretended we were locals – could we make it a reality?

Unbeknown to me, Tom had done some research online about Busselton. I found a brochure in the mail one day about a Lifestyle Village in Broadwater, close to the beach. I didn’t pay much attention to it but suggested that we could have a look at it next time we were in Busselton. On our next visit we met with the sales rep and looked at a few houses on the Saturday. We decided to have a second look on the Sunday and took away a package of information to consider.

In no time at all, we signed the contract for our new home. We had three months to sell our Perth property. We put it on the market and it sold after thirteen days. Crunch time came at work – it wasn’t difficult to leave as I mentioned earlier, I was the last of the team to abandon ship. I was lucky to be able to keep a tenuous link to my job in case the experiment didn’t work out – this was six months leave without pay.

I haven’t looked back. I didn’t decide to retire – I just jumped out of the workforce when the opportunity presented itself. Now, five years later, I am still considering what my next act will be.

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Being ‘in the flow’

I recently discovered an interesting book titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It was first published in 1990 by Harper and Row.

Here is a description of the book I copied from Amazon.com (where I purchased the book).

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous investigations of “optimal experience” have revealed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called flow. During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. In this new edition of his groundbreaking classic work, Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches how, by ordering the information that enters our consciousness, we can discover true happiness and greatly improve the quality of our lives.

I am finding it easy to read and a refreshing change from much of the (wonderful) literature about mindfulness. Sometimes words like mindfulness become so over used that they lose their sense of meaning. The writer talks about giving our attention to whatever is before us.

Although I haven’t finished reading it yet, I feel comfortable in recommending it to readers interested in experiencing more flow in their day-to-day lives.003 (Copy)

It sounds like I was paid to review this book, but I promise I haven’t! It was just a link in an article I was reading online and before I knew what I was doing, I ordered a kindle edition as well as a hard copy 🙂

Health …

sleep apnea 001 (Copy)

I am thinking about ‘health’ for the past week. Not that I am sick or have any big revelations about it, but I am considering how we deal with whatever our health status is.

Some people make a big deal out of minor ailments and yet some others are silent and brave about serious concerns.

I believe that as we get older, the health system responds to us differently. This is when the doctor responds to your concerns with, “it is normal for that to happen at your age.” They don’t seem quite as enthusiastic about fixing us up as we get older.

Another aspect about health – do we talk about it? When is it appropriate and when is it not?

Should we be proactive and do our own research (via Dr Google) or trust in the knowledge and experience of our health care professionals – or a bit of both?

Then there is the scientific approach to health or the alternative therapies. I lean very much toward the medical model – maybe because Medicare will subsidize me if I see a doctor but I pay the full cost if I see someone who practices natural therapies.

What part does our mind play in our health? I am sure it plays a significant role but can we think ourselves better? I know we can think ourselves sick!

So there you have it – a week’s reflection on health, summed up in less than 300 words 🙂

What makes a ‘good life’ ?

I have been reflecting on the ingredients for a good life – what does it take? My thoughts went to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as in the diagram below.

Well being 4

In reading about it on Wikipedia I found there is a new theory that has overtaken Maslow’s and it is the Attachment Theory.

I am interested in finding out some more about that, but not tonight 🙂

I did a Google search on well-being and also found these diagrams that attempt to sum up what it takes to experience well-being.

 

What do you think of them and do you have any alternative strategies to achieve well-being?

The age-old questions

“Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?

IMG_0482 (Copy)

Some people are really sensitive about their age and try to hide the truth from others – leave them guessing! For me, from an early age I looked older than my contemporaries. I think it is fair to say that trait has stayed with me so I just accept it. In fact, I often tell people how old I am just in case they think I am older!

My 29th birthday is the only one I really stressed over. Leaving my twenties behind seemed really significant at the time. I had three young children by that time. Sometimes I reflect on my life in decades, as follows:

0-10   All that childhood stuff

10-20   Probably the worst decade of my life – being a teenager is tough!

20-30   I enjoyed trying to be the model “Earth Mother”, baking my own bread etc and enjoying my young children

30-40   Wow! What happened? My life turned up-side-down with a broken marriage and being single again with young children

40-50   Life started to really improve at this point. I had a good job, mortgage and started getting my act together (at last!)

50-60   Well, I am not quite there yet. I have my sixtieth birthday later this year but this decade has been really good so far. I don’t know how I feel about turning sixty. I am aware that quite a few people I went to school with haven’t made it this far and I feel really grateful that I have.

60-70   Well, I feel fairly positive about the future. I have strong feelings about people in my age group continuing to play an active part in our world (however that translates for each of us). You might want to check out my other blog at http://www.encoreaustralia.wordpress.com. It has some great links relevant to this age group.

I am looking for ideas on how to celebrate my sixtieth, so send them through please. Big parties have no appeal, nor does jumping out of a plane – something a little less dramatic would be good 🙂

 

 

Being prepared

birthday flowers 002 (Copy)My son sent me a link to a website a while ago and I have since subscribed to it due to its simple wisdom. There is a link below to the Zen Habits site and topic of Being Prepared for Anything. The site offers a seven point Survival Kit using the following headings:

1. Mindfulness

2. Watch your internal response

3. See what you’re holding on to

4. Let it go

5. Respond appropriately

6. Stay in the moment

7. Be grateful and accept the moment for what it is.

If the topic and the Survival Kit are of interest to you, and you would like to learn more, I really urge you to visit Zen Habits. I find it often touches on something that is relevant in my life and it sometimes provides Aha! moments for me.

 

cheers

Lorraine

Things were not as they should be

Augustine Street Cohuna Victoria 001My elderly aunt was being cared for in the dementia ward of the local retirement village. It was about four years ago that I visited her from Western Australia. She had very few personal items with her and she asked me to go to her home and bring some toiletries etc back for her. The staff also gave me a short list of items she needed.

I opened the door to her home – it felt a little strange without her there and it had a musty smell about it because the doors and windows were shut tight. On the list was some talcum powder. I checked the bathroom and there were several tins of powder but they were all empty. I decided to treat my aunt to some nice new toiletries instead.

Much to my surprise, my aunt was very upset to learn there was no talc in her bathroom. She believed that someone had broken in and stolen it. Things were not as they should be!

Unfortunately this event came to be a symbol for me of her dementia. She really believed that someone was stealing from her vacant home. I could believe that, but I couldn’t believe someone would steal talcum powder (and leave the empty containers in situ).

It was true that something was not as it should be – sadly it was my aunt’s deteriorating mental and physical health.

Five ways to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed

Cosy wood heater

Cosy wood heater

Here are some things that work for me when I feel overwhelmed …

1. Close your eyes and listen … try to hear sounds nearby and then further and further away. Focus on listening without judgement.

2. Stop what you are doing and focus on a small task – something that you can make a start on immediately. Decide to focus on that task only for a short period of time. It could be for five minutes, an hour or a day.

3. Keep breathing. If you are in a public situation and feel overwhelmed, just breathe as normally as possible, say little, smile occasionally and keep doing what you are doing. No one will ever know the inner turmoil you may be experiencing and maybe they don’t need to know.

4. If practical, get outdoors in the garden, beach, parkland etc. Being outside in the fresh air can do wonders for the spirit.

5. Allow yourself a ten minute nap (might be a bit hard if you are at work). Sometimes time out helps improve clarity and perspective. Keep it to a short nap though as you don’t want to indulge negative emotions that may arise.