Friday, February 29, 2008

Another Addition to the Boomer Wisdom List: Love Your Friends and Family

I just got back on the boat in Guam after those three weeks of family time in wintry Massachusetts. The guy on the left here, is my brother John, seven years younger than I am. He flew up from his home in the Florida Keys and together we helped care for our aging parents to give our sisters a too-short break.

We're good friends and share a lot of interests like boats and fishing and trying to live a healthy life style (notwithstanding that we are at the airport bar having a beer while we wait for our flights out of New England).

In fact, I'm pretty close to all my family--brother, sisters, son, and daughter--and it's hard to imagine getting old without them around. We do a lot of laughing and partying together and you can tell how much you've aged by watching your siblings and children get older. I guess it's all about sharing the experience of living with the people you love and have been with from the beginning.

So, here's the next item to go somewhere on the Boomer List of Small Wisdoms: If you can, get close to your family. Re-establish those bonds you probably had in childhood when you played and cried and had secrets together.

When I get together with my family, we laugh a lot about a lot of things, particularly the aging process and what is happening to our minds and bodies. Might as well laugh while we can, there's nothing we can do about it and there will enough crying later. And come to think of it, the difference between getting the most enjoyment out of aging is remembering one of the earlier items on this list: The difference between adventure and misery is often just attitude. We need to have the right attitude to get the most out of these declining years.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Add This to Our List to Live By

I decided that the Boomer List to Live By should be, at least for now, in no particular order. And, in fact, we might later decide that making lists has become so popular in our culture as to become a cliche--and we need to avoid cliches lest we lose our creativity.

In any event, here's another quote from Walden: ...I am convinced, by both faith and experience, that to maintain one's self on earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we live simply and wisely...
We boomers about to retire can take this to heart as we prepare to live on what is probably going to be significantly less income than we are bringing in now. So, here's the next item on the list (and again, in no particular order): There is no need to struggle. As Thoreau said, simplify, simplify, simplify. I'm pledging myself to living more simply and continue debt free come July when I get my last paycheck.
By the way, and speaking of pastimes, the photo here is of racoon tracks in the snow. I took it last week during a morning walk in the Massachusetts woods after a light snowfall. Taking walks and pictures is a simple enough pastime and I'm enjoying them both immensely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

No. 2 on the Boomer Wisdom List to Live By: A Load of Books on an Ass's Back

It has been said that learning without wisdom is like a load of books on an ass's back (I took this picture while out on one of my winter walks the other day. That's a donkey on the right and a broken-down tractor on the left).
To that end, I propose that No. 2 on the Boomer Wisdom List to Live By be this: Keep a book written by a wise man (two words)--or woman, near by and dip into it every day. I don't mean silly self-help books that are published by the dozen these days. I mean something classic that has stood the test of time. Right now, as you know from the previous blog, I'm dipping into a re-found Walden. Here's another insight from that cranky gadfly, Henry David Thoreau: I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.
Let me know what you think. Any suggestions for No. 3?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Small Wisdoms for Boomers: A List to Live By

I think this might be the best advice I have ever read: The difference between making life an adventure or enduring life as an ongoing misery, is attitude. That's it. It's all in how you look at it. The photo to the right is me this past Christmas in Hobart, Tasmania. I'm the guy on the left. The other guy is a famous Australian adventurer/explorer. He explored Antarctica and must have had a great attitude or he would have been spectacularly miserable.

It's been said the purpose of middle age is to prepare ourselves for death. We leading-edge boomers have got, what, mabye twenty years left if we're lucky. Maybe so, and there is some wisdom in that advice. Yet, I take issue with it. Approaching each day as if it were our last may be a fine romantic notion, but it strikes me as a pretty unhealthy way to look at things. In fact, living each day as if we were going to be dead the next sounds pretty miserable to me. It sounds pretty desperate, as if death were someplace we are going that we'll regret when we get there.

I'd rather take this attitude as Rule Number 1: The teachings of various religions notwithstanding, death in itself is nothing. We simply cease to exist. There will be no awareness, no regrets. We deconstruct and rejoin the universe on the elemental level we were on before we were conceived. There is no spirit or soul floating around out there that remains the essential us. We dissolve, we dissipate, we disappear. To believe otherwise has absolutely no basis in any kind of rational, observable, repeatable evidence. That's my approach, but of course, you can use any kind of approach you believe in, religous or otherwise. The important wisdom is to rid ourselves of our fear of dying.

So, then, if we have no need to fear death, what should we be doing with our time as we advance from middle to old age? We should gather in the small wisdoms that life has handed us and live according to them. We've earned them, let's use them. These small wisdoms (some are bigger than others) are observable all around us, every day in the news magazines, in the papers, in the comments of the people we meet, in the books we read, in the wind and trees, in the water--all around us. We need only look and be aware.

That's what this blog is all about. Gathering small wisdoms and then offering them to other boomers simply as ideas on how to live more happily. The small wisdoms can be about financies, marriage, work, retirement, health, what ever. Send them in and we'll talk about them via the "comments" option at the bottom of the blog.
Here's my first offering of wisdom. I found an old copy of selections from Walden by Henry David Thoreau (I had not read it since I was forced to in high school when it made no sense). On page 14, Thoreau says, "The incessant anxiety and strain of some is a well-nigh incurable disease," and we bring it on ourselves by striving to possess material wealth and prestige, by being "good." Earlier in the paragraph he says, "The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior." And in a previous paragraph he says something wonderful: We might try to live our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes.
I suggest we remember that and avoid as many mistakes as possible. To that end, here is the first item on a tentative List to Live By:
1. Make a list of things that make you feel desperate (make your heart pound and keep you awake at night) and start eliminating them from your life. It's okay to do that. Don't feel guilty.