Tuesday, February 26, 2013

And I Quote

Hope you all don’t mind that I have been adding quotes in my posts. There is an odd synchronicity that has been happening: I’ll be thinking about something (like seeing more clearly or whatever) and in something I’m reading or even Facebook posts there is a quote from someone more famous than me who brings it together. Or I’ll be reading something and there is a quote touching on something that I’m trying to get to crystallize so I can write about it (like the quote from Phillip Glass in the Dare to Be Bored post) (BTW: His music drives me crazy, but his methodology resonated with me). So I cut it out, save it, and let it marinate with the rest of the thought-soup in my head. Eventually it fits in somewhere. Which is cool. But what I really like is the synchronicity of it. That used to happen to me a lot more when I was younger and life was less complicated and hurried. That’s coming back.
“Quotes can be helpful to illuminate your writing. As long as they are not trite
and do not annoy your readers”

                - Me

Postscript 10 days later: Vindicated re: the legitimacy of quotes. See this.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Can See Clearly Now

Well, maybe not clearly – but a bit more clearly. I don’t claim to be becoming a Buddhist (despite the name of my blog) but this resonated:

The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.
       ~ Thich Nhat Hanh  

When I was working, there was the ever-present buffer of life-in-the-fast-lane. It was just easier to see things the way I wanted them to be. I didn’t have the time or energy it would have taken to make them any different. However, things reveal themselves when not partially hidden behind the artifice of what they need to be so that life keeps going with minimal hassle.
Since I’ve been cultivating boredom (see Dare to Be Bored post) it is easier to see the true essence. With many distractions stripped away, some things are coming into focus. I have room in my consciousness to see things more as they are. Preconceived constructs are receding. Realities are illuminated. The veil is lifting.

This applies to situations - for example, the pretension that is Hollywood and movie awards shows, despite the seduction of pretty dresses (and you know I love the fashion moment) or the agenda-protection that passes as right and left political “analysis” ( or governing). 

However, it seems to apply most obviously to relationships. I can see more clearly now that I don’t have to maintain a favorable construct. When working, it is necessary to keep some relationships going because of the job/income-related or professional reputation consequences of not. A certain amount of denial or minimizing is necessary. That can become a way of seeing. It permeates.
No longer in that mode, there is nothing at stake except the relationship itself.  The stripping away exposes a fuller, more complete, picture. Not just a superficial rosy glow occasioned by the overlay of seeing what I want or need to see. 
So, while the effect of retirement on relationships has been good (see post on that topic), it is now easier to see little things or let go of assumptions. The Vietnamese pedicurist doesn’t want to connect on a personal level. She’s not interested in a cross-cultural experience.  She just wants you to come more often so she can feed her family (which is why most people just sit in silence). So stop trying to engage.  The insurance agent never seems to get your questions and often makes little mistakes and might need replacing, despite how long you have been with the agency. Some people at casual social events are so full of themselves (bet you thought I was going to say “it” – that’s a similar breed). There’s no need to stand there and try to make conversation.
More importantly though, the challenging aspects of some closer relationships peek out from behind the veil. It is easier to see what has been accommodated to keep the peace. It is easier to see who listens and who is mostly waiting their turn to talk. Easier to notice who is “there” and who isn’t. Who is unaware that they might be being a tad insensitive. Those that have stayed steadfast and those who let distance happen. Who is really interested.  Who reads this blog and who is “too busy to read it” (honestly, I didn’t think I was going to be so sensitive to hearing that, but I am). And who are the (very busy) people who keep up when they can.
All very illuminating. However, while I can see these things, I am not very caught up in them. I can let it be - have patience as time and attention find ways to work things out or let things go.
When the mind is not crowded by imaginary things, it is the best season of your life.

Yes. It is. I might start calling this “The Retirement Effect”.  Scientific verification studies to follow.

P.S. Almost a month later and the relevant guidance keeps coming:

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Effect of Retirement on Friendships

When you are single (and I believe, even when you are not) friendships can make or break the quality of your life. My friends and small family are my life-blood. And this isn’t second-best to having a significant other. It is really good on its own. Even in the rush of work-life before I retired, I made maintaining my friendships a priority for the limited time and energy that I did have.

So, one of my goals for retirement was to attend to my friendships and to widen the circle of people included in that tending. Now that I’m not racing through life, I have the time and energy to be more “there” (there is more there, there – to slightly misquote Gertrude Stein). I’m able to stay in better contact with people. And I am more available to do the coordinating and to get together for social time or to help with some task. Probably most important, I’ve had a couple friends going through some major shite. And they called me. In the daytime. And I had the energy to really listen and do some things to make circumstances a little easier.

It has also been nice to be able to connect with a few former co-workers free of the co-worker aspect. When we worked together we didn’t have (or make) time for socializing. And the mounting stresses started to get in the way of interactions.

I’m also developing some new friendships. Part of shifting a worldview from head-centered to more creative/intuitive is sharing time and activities with like-being people (I almost said “like-minded” and then caught myself in the contradiction). That translates into more artists and people involved in creative endeavors. Much like in my mid-twenties. In-between social work as a VISTA volunteer and law school I worked as a waitress in a café-ish restaurant that had a cappuccino machine and daily-made-in-house croissants. "So what?" many of you are saying. Well, this what: at the time, there were only two places in Tucson that had a cappuccino machine and this was one of them. (I know you younger readers can’t imagine such a world, but in 1976 most places were a coffee wasteland.)  It was innovative. It was really fun. It was the gateway to knowing artists, which has enriched my life in many ways for decades.

So, while it sounds a bit Hallmark-ish, the effect of retirement on friendships has been really good.

It has also been illuminating. A bit about that coming up soon in a post I’m working on: I Can See Clearly Now.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nothing Doin’ Part 2

“Someone with regular things on Mondays and Thursday and the next two Fridays is NOT doing nothing!” Good point. This is what a recently-retired friend said as part of our communications about getting together. Yes. I never am actually just sitting still doing nothing. Indeed I don’t even meditate, which is as close to that as one can get (and still be alive). So, how can I say I am doing nothing? Because I am STILL a bit caught in that work-world definition of what “doing something” means. I have used “doing nothing” to mean not committed to anything that requires much thinking, planning or expectations of others - no on-going activity that occupies me. Rather, I drift (except for four times a week exercise things).  Driven by events and invitations. And I am never “busy”. I aspire to not-busy. Rather I am occupied. So, okay, I guess I’m not doing nothing. I just have to find a better way to describe it so I can be more articulate at cocktail parties when confronted with “So, what do you do?” Uhhmmmmm….

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dare to Be Bored

My credo for life before I retired was “balanced but not boring”. However, post-holidaze (see the Nothing Doin’ post) I have allowed a lot of space to exist … instead of Getting to Yes (a seminal book about decision-making that set a foundation for the work I used to do) I’m about getting to boredom. Un-doing.  Daring the precipice between contemplation and boredom.  

Life while working was about doing – being productive. And retirement has been a bit about thinking I should be productive – and looking for the what-next. Until about a month ago.  Discovering my authentic self (the flippant answer I gave to the “what are you going to do when you retire” question) is more about being than doing. And I need space for that. So I am clearing away. Resisting grabbing on (or getting a pet). Hanging with the void. Standing still for a closer look. Embracing the “not knowing”.
“The work I did is the work I know, and the work I do is the work I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s the not knowing that makes it interesting”
-        Phillip Glass (avant-garde composer )
Retirement is not really the change. Retirement – stopping work – is a structural change. But it isn’t THE change itself.  It’s just a platform for it. Distractions striped away, it’s an opportunity to explore identity without work or other involvements to define self. The opportunity to make real changes - personal, internal  - that the frenetic work world seemed to preclude. The chance to work out those ways of being that could use a shift or a tweak … like cultivating a less in-head perspective and more creative and intuitive world-view.  And sorting through all the pop-psych, spiritual messages, and positive affirmations. Contemplating how teachings such as “God exists within me, as me” fit in. What does that, and the plethora of other messages about love, truth, and wholeness that have been languishing in the background while I had my nose to the grindstone, really mean. Reconciling them with life as actually lived in the USA, this world, in 2013 and beyond.
Maybe you have answered these types of questions about yourself and your life – or they don’t interest you. In which case, do keep busy once you retire. But I can’t help thinking you’ll be missing an opportunity if you don’t dare to be bored at some point.