Maintaining Relevance

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.

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I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.

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For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.

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What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches.  Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

Companions

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“A good companion shortens the longest road.” ~ Turkish Proverb

Companion defined (Dictionary.com): a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels; one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other.

This Thursday, a fellow blogger (Silvia Writes) asked readers “What type of music inspires you?” Answering her question was relatively easy yet it prompted thought about music as a significant companion. When we think of the essentials, we think about food and shelter. However, we often ignore aspects that are essential to our mental health. We do not normally think of companionship as something that’s essential. Yet research has shown that social interaction is crucial for one’s health. And music and companions are social.

When we reflect on companions we often think of a friend, a spouse, a significant other, a soul mate, an animal, a travel partner or maybe an escort.

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Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches or good people and noble ventures. I like wine and cheese. I relish traveling with a curious travel comrade. And my two dogs shadow me wherever we go, often as unwitting accomplices. But these aren’t the same as having cherished human companions.

For me, music will remain a companion, an inspirational one at times. Just as time in and with Nature will always be a welcomed balm. But have you ever wondered about that human ‘match’? I do, sometimes.

Alas, before digressions co-opt this post, let’s circle back to Silvia’s question. A female vocalist who collaborates with the group Above & Beyond, Zoe Johnston, accompanies amazingly uplifting music. Here’s a clip of Zoe singing a favorite:

What is significant in a companion to/for you?

If you are wondering what contributes to making a good companion, perhaps these three considerations will help:

  1. They listen to you (and you to them). They’re not just nodding their head supportively while you talk. They are actually paying attention because they care about what you think and how you feel and what you find interesting.
  2. They have something in common. Companions have a balance of shared interests, but not in everything. Art galleries, trying new foods, hiking along a coast… What matters is some cross-commonalty.
  3. Life is a dance. Enjoy dancing (literally or metaphorically) with those who will complement your life. Bow out of the dance when it isn’t time to dance and welcome new dance partners as they join in to your life.

Image Credit: Flying Companions by Artsammich (Sam Nielson) Deviant Art

It’s About the Smile

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

I got half way through typing a post and thought, nope, not today. It seemed too heavy a message to start or conclude a week, depending on which way you view Sundays.

Instead, I am sharing the above three minutes video. It’s four years young yet today was the first time I’ve viewed it. It easily brought a smile to my face and a lift to my spirit. The clip is a voice only, live orchestra, welcome home greeting. And it obviously accomplished its goal of pleasantly surprising arriving passengers.

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As inspiring moments often do, this got me thinking about the impending, year-end holidays. And what each of us can do to make someone’s day uniquely memorable. Be it Thanksgiving in the U.S., Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa – whatever one celebrates – many people will plow full-steam ahead into the next two months without giving fair thought to how and what they can do for those not anticipating anything.

We don’t need to stage elaborate productions as in this video. We can create and present small acts that may well be emotional and unforgettable for others. Simple things like a pair of gloves or a scarf, a small gift bag, a blanket or (gasp!) an invitation into your home or a restaurant for a meal, can generate an endless smile, even tears of appreciation.

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I’m going to flip my post format today. Rather than offer three ideas for you to consider, I’m inviting you to share one act (in comments) that you intend to perform in the coming weeks to create a special moment for someone, especially a stranger.

Of course, it is my belief that we ought to be doing this continuously. But that’s an opportunity for you to mull. 🙂 Let’s see what we’re capable of doing to pleasantly stun a new, even if momentary, arrival in our life.

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Me… Stressed??

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~ Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

This past Sunday we experienced what meteorologists call a “100 year rain event.” Put simply, it means we got slammed. I live in the desert and when rains of this magnitude fall, it is impossible for the arid land to absorb so much water in such a compressed period of time. It yields massive flooding and it literally sweeps away what you would never imagine being uprooted and moved.

It’s unnerving to watch portions of your property wash down an arroyo. It’s frustrating when years of manual labor and xeriscaping simply vanishes. It’s been a physically and emotionally draining week.

Wednesday evening, exhausted, I finally created time to put what had happened into perspective. I looked at Bailey and Logan (my canine companions) and started to laugh, at them and myself! After days of massive cleaning up, where neighbors slogged and rallied to support each other, I realized that it was just earth and rocks and trees and railroad ties. And how important are they? 🙂

My focus shifted to how fortunate we were. In the bigger global picture, I’m still abundantly blessed. There was no loss of life, the interior of the house was undamaged, electricity was eventually restored and life will go on. Me… stressed? Perhaps then. Me… grateful? Absolutely now.

Before

Before. Peaceful. Prethreatened.

After. It's worse than it looks.

After. It’s worse than it looks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are there take-aways? Sure there are.

1) I found my way back to positive thinking which, in this case, meant that I approached unpleasantness in a positive and productive way. I changed my self-talk to align with the best is going to happen, not the worst. I (eventually) paused and chose to cope, thus mitigating the harmful effects of stress.

2) When I got around to laughing, I was focused on Bailey and Logan. Many are unaware of the physical and mental health benefits that accompany time shared with pets. They’re mood enhancers! Studies have shown that pets lower blood pressure in stressful situations and it doesn’t have to be a cat or a dog. Even watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension.

3) I realized I still possessed what mattered; family, health and friends. Researchers from The Australian Longitudinal Study on Aging looked at 1,500 men and women for a full decade. Among their findings was that having good friends is more likely to increase health and longevity than even close relationships with other family members. The researchers speculate that the emotional support friends provide one another during difficult times, contributes stress reduction benefits as a result of feeling connected to other people.