Tag Archives: lists

We’ll See.

All I can say is it’s been 2 weeks and I’m not sure this is for me. Maybe it’s because I’m shallow or perhaps because I’m not shallow enough. That rather frightening thought has occurred to me over this past little while. And I say “little” with my tongue in cheek as the last 14 days have been one of the longest years of my life. Let’s get a couple of things out of the way from the start. First, I’m not implying that all of you happy retired people are shallow, although it’s possible some of you might be and there’s really nothing wrong with that if you are. Second, I’ve always  known that the hardest part of retirement isn’t about the money. It’s about figuring out what you want to do with these golden years of your life. And before everyone starts dishing out advice, yes, I did the research. Read the books. Well skimmed a few. Talked to all of my happily retired friends. Found out what they like, what they don’t like, what they do and what they don’t do. I’ve paid attention as they post one seemingly joyous status update to Facebook after another. Good God! I’ve even lived with a retired person for the past 8 years so no one can say I haven’t done my due diligence. And yet, here I sit, wondering why many people seem to spend their entire working life looking forward to the day they don’t have to work anymore.

I’ve never been one for routines. My cat has routines. My husband has routines. I just don’t. I don’t get up at the same time everyday. I don’t even have an alarm clock. Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get dressed when I get up, most often I don’t. When I worked, I did my work when my work needed to be done. And it’s been this way for quite a while now.

I suppose if I think back to when I was younger, it probably wasn’t the case. In those days I wasn’t seasoned enough to go about my business any which way. Younger people (at least in my day) had the disadvantage of youth. Not enough experience (or guts) to tell the old guys how things should be done. So in we came five days a week, starting at 9, working to 5 whether or not there was work to be done. If nothing else, it gave the day some structure. You knew what time you had to be up, what time you would be home again. You got hungry around 7:00 because that’s how long it took you to make dinner. You did something in the evening but not too much since that alarm of yours was going to go off bright and early the next morning. Much time was spent thinking about what you were going to do on the week-end because back then, there was a difference between weekdays and weekends.

Here’s the good thing about getting older. Some time ago I finally figured out that they needed me just an eensy bit more than I needed them. I can’t say exactly when that happened or when it will happen for you. When it does you’ll just know. You’ll start to come to work a little late and no one will say anything, even though they most certainly will notice. You’ll leave early and they won’t ask you where you’re going because they assume you have something important to do. Eventually you won’t even have to pretend you are on your way to a meeting. Before you know it you’ll add your afternoon hair appointment to your calendar, even though everyone you work with can see it. It’s then you realize you’re captain of your ship, master of your universe. You’re doing things when you want to do them. You broke the mold. Hit the jackpot. Finally, no more routines for you.

And here’s the irony of it all. It seems to me (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) that the people who are most successful at this retirement thing are those who have managed to adopt a routine for themselves. They’re the ones who get up each morning knowing pretty much how the day is going to play out. Maybe they run. Or eat a hearty breakfast. Or find some friends and go for a long morning walk. Perhaps they read the paper. I’m thinking they must make lists because it seems that whatever it is they do, they know what they are going to do next. Things fall into place. At least that’s what they tell me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying they do the same thing each and every day.  After all, there’s not a concert in the park every day. Just every Wednesday. And on Wednesday you can bet your bottom dollar that’s where they’ll be.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I haven’t quite come to grips with my new found status in life and I’m finding this all a bit confusing.   After years of working my way out of a life of day to day routine it appears that my best bet is to go out there and find one.  I’m struggling just a little bit. Maybe I’ll write my way through this. I’ve been thinking about turning those “Prickly Pete” bedtime stories I used to tell my kids, into a series. I’ve also been thinking about writing a “Shallow Guide to Retirement”, although seems to me that might be a tad premature. I don’t know.  I’m not ready to make any commitments. For now I’m reminded of when I used to ask my Mother if something was going to happen for sure. Most often she would reply with a rather definitive “We’ll see”.  Maybe two weeks just isn’t enough time. I suppose we’ll see.

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I should have thought of that!

french toastEvery once in a while something happens that makes you think about things in a way you have never thought about them before. Now I’m not talking about things that turn your world upside down or anything like that. Rather, this is about the things that make you want to give your head a shake because once you have thought about them in an entirely different way you wonder why you had never thought about them that way before. And the funny thing is, it’s often a rather innocuous and otherwise insignificant trigger, an innocent comment by some unsuspecting stranger who has no idea that what they thought was a common turn of phrase had become the  catalyst for the revelations you were about to make. Had they known, they likely would not have simply turned and walked away with nary a glance back. But you will remember them forever because, without a doubt they influenced your thinking if not profoundly, at least a little. And you know I wouldn’t be saying all of this if it hadn’t happened to me not so long ago.

The story starts outside a very popular eating establishment on an uncharacteristically cold day during a visit to, what we in the West refer to simply as “The Island”.  Thinking back from where I sit now, I must chuckle just a little when I say it was “cold” given that the temps on that day pale in comparison to the extreme cold warnings I am currently suffering through in my hometown. Nonetheless, there was enough wind to cause the ears and fingers to tingle so, suffice to say, it was a little frostier than we would have prefered it to be. Now we knew there would be a line for the brunch we craved because there is always a line for that brunch. What we didn’t anticipate was how long the line would be and how slow it would move. But we waited and eventually, as happens when one stands in line long enough, we were seated, handed menus and offered the requisite morning libations. So far, so good. There are enough choices at this particular establishment that you need a little time to ponder and perhaps one clarification visit from the server, in this case a very pleasant young woman who appears to enjoy bringing good food to mostly good people. After her initial visit and, having provided us with a sufficient amount of time to make up our minds, she returns to the table ready to take our order. Remember, this is breakfast so it’s not overly complicated and things go well, what with me having taken her earlier advice to switch from the apple to the orange french toast (which I have to say turned out to be the very best french toast I have ever eaten and if you are ever on “The Island” you need to let me know so I can tell you where this is) and my compatriot deciding to indulge on pancakes topped with some sort of banana concoction which turned out to be very good too. Seems pretty routine so far, no?

The thing is, after she took the orders, all the while acknowledging our rather exceptional decision-making skills, she stopped for a moment, looked us straight in the eye (well at least one of us since we were sitting across from each other) and asked: “Is there anything you strongly dislike?” Not “do you have any allergies” or “would you like that french toast well done?” or even “do you need sugar with your tea”? Just “is there anything you strongly dislike?” Which is when it happened. It’s when I realized I had never thought about the possibility that there were degrees of “dislike”. That I could dislike something more or less. Of course by now you know that, as a shallow person, I like to keep things simple.  I like walking on the beach. I dislike walking in the snow. I like my lattes without foam. I dislike having to drink them on wooden chairs. I like winning. I dislike losing. You get the picture. It’s either one way or the other. I like something or I don’t. So you can imagine how this new concept, the idea of increments of dislike, could throw me for a loop. But having recently given it some consideration I can honestly say, I should have thought of that!

Now that I do know, I’m going to start thinking about things differently. Over the next little while I just might figure out what things I sort of don’t like and what things I really don’t like. I’ll probably try to rank them. Maybe make a list. Even though, as you probably already know, I don’t really like lists very much.

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Don’t Worry! Be Happy!

smileyI’m about to embark on another learning journey. Surprised? Me too. But if you have been following me for some time you’ll know that, not too long ago I attended Harvard where I completed a course that explored the rather esoteric concept of justice. Ok, to be fair, I didn’t actually attend Harvard. I took that course online with maybe a hundred thousand or so other people, give or take a few. But I passed and now my Harvard certificate is proudly displayed in a most prominent spot on my office wall. Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t been reading this blog carefully enough. Shallow people know there’s no shame in exploitation when no one gets hurt. And honestly, is there any harm in people expecting you to be just a little smarter than you really are? Or happier? Because you see, for my next foray into the world of academe I will become immersed in the exploration of the “science of happiness”. You heard me right. I’m going to learn how to be happy.

The funny thing is most of the time I am happy. Which doesn’t mean I’m never grumpy or sad or temperamental or just plain ornery. There are times when I am all of those things. Like when I’m driving, minding my own business and some lunatic decides the speed limit is slightly more than double what I am doing. And passes me. On the inside. Or squirrels eat my car, which, if I can be so bold to say, hasn’t happened since we have managed to successfully evict them from the garage. Which has actually made me quite happy. Unless they come back. Which will make me all of the above. Or my hair goes curly in the rain. Yeah, that’s probably the proverbial straw. Yet all of these aside, I’m usually pretty happy. So you may be wondering why exactly I would devote the better part of the next three months learning about happiness.

First things first. I’m taking the course from Berkeley and, besides Harvard, who doesn’t want to go to Berkeley? Let’s face it. Anyone who grew up in the 60s, and I know quite a few people who did, feels a little tinge of nostalgia at the mention of the name. I mean Berkeley. Man, that’s where it was at. Berkeley. The epicenter of  the cultural revolution. Who doesn’t want to groove to that beat? And what better place to go to learn how to be happy? Although, if this were the sixties, I suspect that you wouldn’t have to take a course to figure out how to get happy at Berkeley.

And I gotta say, after seeing the course syllabus I’m pretty excited about what’s to come. Because not only is this course about learning how to be happy, it’s also about discovering how to live a meaningful life. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it would have been better to have taken this in the sixties but since there’s no age limit on enrollment I’m guessing it’s not too late. Besides, there are readings and lectures, quizzes and practice exercises so surely something’s going to stick. But to be totally honest, my excitement for what’s to come is coupled with just a little bit of skepticism as I consider the implications of taking a course that talks about “measuring happiness” and provides a list (and you know what I think about lists) of “eight essentials when forgiving”. Do we really need to take a course that instructs us on how to forgive? I’m starting to wonder if the course about being happy could already be making me a little sad.

But despite my reservations I do think this course will be worth my time. As you know, every once in a while I have some trouble coming up with ideas for this blog. The truth of it is, I have an inkling that, if nothing else, I won’t find myself with that problem over the next few months. And you know what? That’s making me happier already!

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Let me count the ways

bread listI’ve written about them before and apparently I’m going to write about them again. It seems to me that people like lists. I haven’t actually done the research so can’t say it’s an empirical fact or anything like that, but I do have some evidence to support my hypothesis. Take my last post. My last post had a list and people liked it. And, let’s face it. For all intents and purposes, Mr. Letterman’s entire career has been built around a list. Each and every night for the past 30 odd years he’s shared with us a “top 10” and it seems to me that nothing could last that long if people didn’t like it. As a matter of fact, it’s entirely possible that he could single handedly be responsible for the ever increasing popularity of the list. Although you won’t want to quote me on that.

The fact is, people make a lot of lists. They make lists when they go shopping to make sure they buy all the right stuff when they get to the store. Even if that store happens to be right around the corner from where they live. And yet, my best guess is, that when they leave the store there are as many things in their basket that weren’t on the list, than were. And some that were on the list but not in the basket. Most people make lists at work of all the things they need to do. I’ve been told this is a good thing, not so much because it reminds you of what you need do, but more so because you get such a good feeling when you cross each one of those things off until eventually you don’t have a list. Which begs the question “do people really like making lists or is it the getting rid of them that tickles their fancy?

You may however, be wondering why a shallow person like myself would be spending so much time thinking and writing about lists all the while eschewing the temptation to make them. Certainly I have made public my disdain for those pesky resolution lists so often made at the first of each year and there is still nothing in that bucket of mine. It’s just that everywhere I look these days there’s someone, I’m sure with the best of intentions, trying to tell me what 10 things I should or shouldn’t buy at my local big box store or what foods I should or shouldn’t eat if I want to live to be 100. Which I suppose in my family isn’t out of the question and, now that I’m thinking about it, I should probably ask my Mother to make a list.. Bottom line? While I don’t like making lists I have no problem reading and sharing them with you. So here are some of my favourites:

1) The 10 best and 10 worst places to live. Not that I am but it’s always nice to know where one should move should one be thinking of moving. You can also find out the 10 most expensive and the 10 least expensive places to live. Although perhaps unintentional, there is a strong correlation between these lists.

2) The 10 best colleges and universities in the country.  As a matter of fact, you’re going to find lots of lists that rank institutions of higher education. Unfortunately they’re all going to be different so you’ll just end up confused. Might I suggest you just use that “best place to live” list for this decision.

3) The 10 most influential people who never really lived. I can completely understand the inclusion of Santa Claus, Barbie and even Robin Hood, but I had to question the list’s reliability when it came to “The little engine that could”. In what universe can a train engine, even one that talks, be classified as a person?

4) 10 reasons why old people are awesome. Ten? At my age I would have been happy with one.

5) 7 new robots designed to do human jobs. I’d be ok with this as long as it didn’t dress better than me.

6) 13 scientific terms you might be using wrong. Fortunately I’m not using any of these wrong. Actually, I’m not using any of them at all.

7) Forbes 500 List. This is a long one so not sure anyone is really going to take the time to read it. Even so, one thing I can tell you for sure. I’m not on it.

8) 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 lists. These are always interesting because you get to see the rising stars in your community. One day I’m hoping to make the top 70 under 70.

9) 10 cool ways to reuse a pizza box. I eat a lot of pizza. Normally I throw out the box. I could have made chairs. Who knew this list would come in so handy.

10) Almost everyone does 10. I’m not doing 10.

Well what do you know! Looks like I just made a list of lists. Hope you liked it.

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