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Retirement?

PictureElaine Writes:  Here it is, the last night before the end of my career as a prescribing psychologist for the military. So what does it feel like? Well, I will go with my most familiar emotion…fear. But as I write this I realize that even though fear has been my constant companion for so many years, I am ready to look past it. Kind of like when you see the same scenery on the way to work every day. it is so familiar, I know it’s there but for some reason it is not calling my attention. What is calling me is a need for a vision.

What do I want this next passage of my life to look like? I am not a little girl frightened by teachers, my schoolmates, traveling to and from school watching out for strangers and occasionally petrified by some act of violence. I am not a bright-eyed college student, traveling on the trains in NYC and walking though Greenwich village feeling “hip” and smarter just by the act of associating with intelligent, successful urbanites. Dreaming big dreams and thinking about how wonderful it would be to make it in the professional world. I am not a graduate student wondering if I will get though statistics and a dissertation.

As I look back I realize so much of my life has been built on a relentless pursuit of success. Of being someone important. Of being SOMEBODY. This last month at work and teaching in NM has served as a great reminder to me that I have been successful in the things that I have set out to accomplish. But then I listen to that inner voice and it says, “What’s wrong with you? Why would you give up something that you are clearly so good at?” After those questions abate, I hear myself asking, “And what next? What will life be like without a clear role–without a title?” But now an even deeper question…”What do you need to be happy?”

I don’t know. I thought happiness came from a great job, a beautiful house. Lot’s of money. Yeah–tons of money. But interestingly, when Sukran asked yesterday what we would do if we were totally free–no obligations to our children, our parents, no financial concerns, I was stunned because I had never asked myself such an amazingly simple question.
I want to keep that question in the forefront of my consciousness. It is like a mindfulness exercise I learned earlier last year which asks you to pretend you have died. Now you are back on earth. How do you see the world? What is the first thing you would decide to do–your first ACTION. Tomorrow will be the day of my death as a Lt Col/contractor in the same office since 2006. Saturday I will wake up and it will be the day of my resurrection. It is a great responsibility to make my new life meaningful in a deliberate way. Using wisdom and experience rather than fear to guide me.

I am so domesticated as a caretaker. It comes naturally to me. What doesn’t come naturally is asking myself, “How can I take care of you today, Elaine?”

I have a feeling I am not going to need near as much money as I envisioned to find my new life happiness. I know I will miss the friends I have made here. I will miss my working life in general. But if I look at it all as “life before the resurrection” I think it will help me to feel the sense of renewal and hope for the future that I would like to experience in this year, not of retirement but of the renewal.

4/13/2012, Elaine Writes: Today I was Almustafa. I bid farewell to my friends with a burden and an ache because I worked with some really dedicated people who I know will be genuinely sad at my leaving. I am sad for leaving them. But I am still convinced that to tarry longer would mean crystalizing for me because I am no longer growing and I know I have been avoiding the anxiety of doing something radically different from my secure desk job.Today my friend Gregoria asked me how many years I have been working and when I said 26 it seemed like a long time. I guess I could have pushed for 30 and gotten the emotional version of the gold watch. After all, who could fault someone for retiring after three decades of hard work? I’ll admit, there is a part of me that feels kind of guilty for pulling away from the pack of of my peer of 50-somethings–Many of whom are at the peak of their careers. So who would fault them for wanting to ride that wave for as long and far as they can. Heck! If it hadn’t been for Joe, I believe I would have done the very same thing. I am blessed as Sukran would say to have a partner who can act as a co-conspiritor as I check out this new world of travel and exploration.

This may be another reason why people in my age group succumb to the seduction of an 8-hour work day. They have no one to collude with them in the act of defying the conventional wisdom and lifestyle. In the absence of a partner in crime, they come home exhausted from their work day or at least not energized, turn on the television after dinner or surf the internet and before they know it, the evening is over and they they go to bed counting the days until the weekend. I could see myself doing that as well. So I guess for today–this first day of the coming of the ship, I will acknowledge my heavy heart, but take great joy in the growing connection between me and someone who is spiritually “from the isle of my birth.”


My First Monday Off

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4/16/2012, Elaine Writes:  Today is my first Monday off from work and ironically, I was called in for jury duty. When I showed up, I was told that my number was excused and I could leave. This was a nice way to start my day…early, and “released”. So, what have I done with this fine day I was free to enjoy? I went food shopping. I noticed as I did these “chores” from my former work life, that I am feeling as if I am still on some kind of vacation instead of a sabbatical where my objective is to learn about myself and what makes me happy. What do I want to achieve over this next year. I know that as Joe says, “The plan is not to have a plan.” But, there must be something I must use as a vision, or else I can see myself getting endlessly locked into daily tedious tasks that feel like I have substituted one form of work for another.

I know as Freud suggested that life must include love, play and work. But, I don’t want the work of this year to be housework and food shopping. Otherwise, I feel I will turn into a modern day Sisyphus doomed to roll that same stone up the hill with no real result. I may have too great a set of expectations for this year, but I find I am feeling increasingly proud of myself for breaking free and doing things now while I am still young enough to feel like a kid playing hookie instead of waiting until age or dementia forced me out. It is like Jerry Seinfeld said when he stopped filming his mega-hit comedy show. He said it is better to go out while your still at the top of your game, then to wait until the audience has lost interest. I believe all my coworkers would say I left at the peak, and for some reason, this still matters to me. It is giving me the incentive to look forward with excitement because I know I still have the spark inside me. I have no desire to look back at this point. I have made a choice, and now the only direction that makes sense is the first step in the 3000 mile journey awaiting us.

If I look ahead then, what kinds of things would make for a year of growth? Let’s see:

1. Explore. The move is a good thing. New place, interesting people.
–I am making a practice of starting conversations with strangers. This is very difficult for an introvert like me, but it seems to be paying off every single time I force myself to do it. In fact, it feels like God is purposely throwing some intriguing responses at me through these strangers just to remind me how important this simple gesture can be. Therefore, I resolve to continue this approach; to talk to one new person each time I am presented with the opportunity to break these barriers.


2. Learn. Pick a topic, or two and focus.
–Set aside at least 1 hour per day to explore material or classes that have nothing to do with my profession 


3. Stay flexible. I learned from a comparative zoologist recently, that the one commonality amongst creatures who survive for millions of years is flexibility. They learn to adapt to changing environments.
–When I am frightened by the rapidity with which my environment seems to be changing (e.g. giving up material possessions, selling the house, leaving friends) I will remind myself to remain flexible and bend with the change instead of avoiding it.


3. Travel. This can mean learning what is around the corner from my new apartment, all the way to sailing to Tampa or even New England. I would love to go to Nepal because of my interest in Eastern philosophy and medicine.


4. Learn to trust myself.
–Then I will know how to live. No self-doubt or second-guessing just openness to whatever experience I have even the discomfort that comes from pushing my boundaries.


5. Workout each day.
–Now that I no longer have the excuse of having no time due to work, I want to extend the time I workout. Do more physically active things during the day. Forget routine exercise and make moving part of my daily life. Maybe volunteer work that requires me to move, bend, flex–whatever so long as I am using my underdeveloped body instead of my overdeveloped brain!

I could go on to include simple things like drinking water, eating healthy meals to maintain my immunity and energy, maintaining contact with friends and family. But I don’t want to get bogged down in the details at this point. Right now it is all about the idea of living life with a newly found freedom and to make sure I do not squander this time. Making my behavior consistent with my goals and values each and every day I have the gift of one more opportunity to squeeze the juice out of this only life I will have on this earth.

  Oh, and here is another quote from Kahlil Gibran that I believe will help to tie Joe and my posts together:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding… And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy” 


Breaking Out of my Shell

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4/19/2012, Joe Writes: There is a lot of truth in that quote, in the pain from breaking the shell. There is also fear. I’m avoiding both, just focusing on the little details, the steps that must be taken for this change to happen. I have waited so long that I fear that my spirit has withered on the vine. I know it’s an unrealistic fear, I’ve grown and learned and changed with each of our limited sojourns into other cultures but fear rarely needs a foundation of reality to support it. And pain…..I’ve been having more vivid dreams and nightmares lately. They seem to revolve around failed relationships, which in turn revolved around the choices between settling down and heading out to new horizons. I’d chosen to stay put for the good of my partner, or for their need or their fear or their responsibility to family. Any reason or all the reasons will suffice, it doesn’t matter. That choice, to stay put, comes at a cost, a cost I hadn’t fully comprehended. It’s not just a pound of flesh that had to be paid but also a pound of spirit.

     There are two angels keeping me on this new path, Faith and Elaine. Faith has always been with me, telling me what direction I “should” take. Elaine is the new Angel that is ensuring that I “do” take it. Yes, she has to deal with her own demons, and she falters from time to time, but, she never the less listens to my needs. We negotiate, we compromise, we fight. She then ensures that not only her needs are being met but mine. It’s amazing that she can do this. My apprehensions must be a tenth of what she is experiencing. I’ve stepped into the void many times before, this is her first great leap. Now I’m just trying to keep up with her. Now it’s a competition to see who’s backpack is going to be the lightest.

My Hour of Learning this Morning

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4/19/2012, Elaine Writes: So during my hour of learning this morning, I read some quotes that I believe will help with this upcoming sabbatical or “pilgrimage.” They come from a book titled, “If you meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.” It speaks of a metaphor for the pilgrimage as a bridge “a fiend clutches at him from behind; and Death awaits him at the farther end.” But we use our companions, our co-conspirators to help us wend our way through.  (Joe’s Note: For anyone that might be alarmed at killing Buddha while walking down the road this is a metaphor about needing to look to the Buddha inside ourselves while we are on our journey through life. Enlightenment can not be taught by others)

There are themes which resonate with my experience of breaking away from the pack. For example, consider this quote attributed to Jesus: “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth into destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
And here is another quote from the author about this pilgrimage: “And remember, too, you can stay at home, safe in the familiar illusion of certainty. Do not set out without realizing that the way is not without danger. Everything good is costly and the development of the personality is one of the most costly of all things. It will cost you your innocence, your illusions, your certainty.“These passages remind me that I can be on a bridge leading me to a new “nation” of sojourners who by definition are a people with uncommon values eschewing security and comfort and replacing them with truths about the basic elements of a satisfying life. You might argue that there are no “truths” or that truth is different for each individual. But I think the importance of our differences can be captured in a truth about respecting the voice, the story of each person no matter his/her station in life because there is a lesson to be learned from the unique path of each individual. So this has given me an idea about how I want to travel–BE OPEN to all people who cross my path on the journey and focus on each person’s story, not the clothes they wear, not their level of education, not whether they meet my preconceived notions about the kind of person I can get along with. Next, understand that because the path is narrow, many people will not believe in my direction. They may scoff or negatively judge me for breaking away from the pack, and I will need to understand the fears that drive them to reject my choices instead of accepting their opinions as reality and questioning my sanity right along with them.Finally, for today, accept that this path will be painful because it represent a cracking of this shell of comfort. But as Kahlil has already noted, without sorrow there can be no joy.The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
-Kahlil Gibran


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04/19/2012, Sukran Writes: The desire and the need to be free from all the burdens that justify accomplished American dream is my hunger. Once again a dream of mine is standing tall in front of me again. This time I am not looking at the torn pages of a world atlas dreaming how wonderful it would be to live on the other side of the ocean, working on my profession in a foreign country, blending in and “becoming one of them”. This time the call is deeper, this time the call is louder. ” You gotto find out what this is all about…” What are you made of, go and find out, give a chance to yourself to explore your biggest gift…you.

Do I really need to leave a place and people behind to do this? Could I do this tomorrow, when I wake up, while sipping my french pressed coffee to work, checking prescriptions, answering doctor calls, and hiking a blood pressure to the roof at times in the pharmacy? would the routine of my “too comfortable” life let me find the answer? Is there such a thing as a comfortable journey?

It hurt so many times before. Leaving home and knowing there is no going back, getting used to a new place, calling it a second home and leaving it again. It hurts. It will hurt again. Yet deep inside I feel the joy. I feel the joy as I felt so many times before. But this time it is different. This time I know that the places I will go do not matter nor the faces that I will meet. This time it is all about the journey not the destination, and this time I am taking just myself with me and mybeloved,too. And this is hunger. There is no other way to describe it.


All We Need is Our Passport and Some Money

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04/20/2012, Elaine Writes: As I pack up rooms full of “stuff” one by one, I realize that if pressed, I could leave every single bit of it behind. Just a back pack with clothing and toiletries. Even those things could be whittled down to nothing–just like Joe says, “All you need is your passport and some money.” That way, I could buy what I need right in place at a drug store, dollar store, Goodwill/second hand. Nothing has to cost that much if you know where to buy and stay away from the tourist traps. This works fine for me since I don’t like crowded, commercialized venues. Also, although the phrase is overused, and often trivialized–it is VERY MUCH ABOUT THE JOURNEY. In fact, the journey can have many meanings and levels. Is it the literal journey? In that case, I hear people saying, “I hate riding on airplanes…it’s just not worth it anymore.” They refuse to go through the paces of security, being patted down, having to throw away that hand cream they forgot they still had in their bag/purse. Then there is that “nails on a chalkboard” experience of the baby crying from the moment you buckle in, until the plane lands (or at least it seems that way). Feeling crushed between two passengers when you have that middle seat on the airplane, avoiding using the bathroom because you don’t want to disturb the guy who has already fallen asleep next to you. Then the guy in front of you pushes his seat back and now you are pinned from 365 degrees.

WHOAA! Just as I wrote this, the reminder on my phone just cautioned me to “be flexible.” Who says God does not speak to us directly? I noticed I was writing about how unpleasant the journey could be and that is why it is so easy to get sucked into just reaching the destination. But now I am wondering, “what would being flexible look like in this world of travel we are seeking out for ourselves?” I pose this as a question to all my fellow travelers? Could it be that even though we seek to exult the journey, it in itself is not necessarily always pleasant,or uniformly satisfying? Are we better served by avoiding labels and judgments, “Oh that was so great!” (picture a delicious/exotic meal) “God that was horrible!” (picture sitting next to the crying baby on the plane). If we practice mindfulness, then regardless of the actual event, we remind ourselves that each moment is perfect and when our brain shouts, “get me off this plane now!” Am I capable of reminding myself that even that moment is perfect? Another question for my fellow travelers, “What would you say to yourself to maintain your tranquility during that plane trip sitting next to the inconsolable infant?”


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04/20/2012 Joe Writes: I remember a particular mediation practice in a church I was attending. It was over 10 years ago. The pastor/guide did the typical relax-control your breathing-relax-inhale-exhale…. and then attempts to take you to someplace else using imagery, a calm voice, all that stuff we’ve done many times before to separate us from the here and now. The problem that specific morning was that the daycare in the little chapel we were in was upstairs and the children were having a particularly fun time. There was screaming, stomping, crying, laughing and children just being children. After the meditation there were a number of complaints.

I have never been very good at the typical meditation practices that try to separate you from your current reality, from the external input of sounds and sights and smells. When I sit through these meditations I tend to get frustrated with myself and my lack of ability to “go to some other place”. I’d tried and tried but was never very good at it, the places I’d eventually go to usually involved worries about past or future events. I’d then discovered something about myself and found my niche. When the meditation starts, I do my breathing exercises and then focus on the here and now. I try to experience every sense in a new way, I focus on the sound of calm breathing from the people next to me, I focus on the fidgeting of the teenager three isles away, the smell of people and coffee and breakfast, the whirring of the A/C unit AND the sounds of life coming from the children above me. That’s what brings me peace.

We are all different and experience pain and pleasure in different ways. I don’t know if this helps or not. I can’t stand in a mothers shoes and experience the crying of a baby in the same manner. All I can offer is maybe a new perception or a new reality of the “experience”.


Reflections from Today

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04/20/2012, Elaine Writes: I was thinking about Sukran’s comment about the possibility of discovering yourself or living life fully while living one’s “comfortable life.” We keep saying we must leave to be free. Why can’t an equal argument be made about growing where ever you are. Or an argument about the positive impact of familiarity. So for example, if you are in a neighborhood you enjoy, with a dynamic culture, making friends, living a “good” life which is augmented by the growing familiarity of the places, and people you see every day, would that necessarily be a bad thing? If you were living in a city like Boston where there were shows, classes, symposia, temples, restaurants, universities, museums, diversely intelligent people with whom you could establish friendships, etc. Would it necessarily be a bad thing to want to stay there and explore from within?

Since I am not a dyed-in-the-wool traveler like Joe, Sukran and Carroll, I am not sure if that would be sufficient. Would the “wander lust” require you to move about like nomads (my image) without a home base in order to satisfy a desire for something else just as or even more important? Is staying home just too comfortable? I realize it can only go so far in terms of cultural diversity/exploration. But are the benefits worth the risks? And what are your own views of the specific benefits?

Finally, Joe, in terms of the hear and now orientation to meditation, I think it is really the only way to go for me personally. Its just when I hear certain noises, like a baby crying, or I’m in a place where I can’t control my escape, I find it hard to keep in touch with my other senses and to stay in the moment in a non-judgmental way because I keep feeling a desire to have it end.

04/21/2012 Joe Writes:  What is it that drives a persons “wander lust”? I’ve wondered about that a lot. Some of us, like my brother Steve and his wife, Gail, seem quite happy living in the same place for so long. In fact when I think about it, almost all of my friends and family stay put. Maybe I just can’t understand it. For me it’s as basic as breathing, the need to explore.

04/21/2012, Elaine Writes:  Maybe this is what causes your Mom to move so much. You might scoff and say she only moves from home to home, and not country to country, but what if she moves because she has that same need to change her environment. What if it is part of her (and subsequently your) genotype manifesting as phenotypic wandering/exploring–testing your personal limits. Wouldn’t that be interesting? It would support the feeling of it being “as basic as breathing” for you.

I would jokingly say that my family likes to stay in one place, but that is not true. They came to NY from PR and their grandparents came from other countries as well. You and I are moving because of a desire to expand our awareness rather than a need to advance economically and that is a definite difference from my parents. Bu at the same time it seems to me that humans instinctively look past the limits of their horizon. So maybe you are just more in touch with that anscestral press than I am. This is why I need you to be more specific about what draws you to travel. It helps me so much when you are able to operationally define your motivations for things that I don’t do naturally.. For instance, remember when you told me the first thing you would do if you were given a second chance to live would be to look for someone to talk to? Well, the next day, I spent the entire day speaking to strangers just to test the theory of benefits from engaging with outhers, and it turned out to be a wonderful day. God kept sending me little gifts through the replies I received, and it really drove home the point you were making about the inherent rewards of making contact. The other great thing is that it is an absolutely free activity. The only cost is time.

This brings me to another thing I am noticing about retirement: taking a few moments to stand and listen to someone no longer feels like I am losing time. My schedule used to be so tight that if I took 20 minutes to listen to Dennis’ stories, I felt like I was giving up time I could be working on something more “important.” But today, I was able to listen to several of his stories and realized he has a pretty eventful past. I also happily noticed that I still had time to get back to my organizing, cleaning, exercising with time to spare. It is such a nice feeling to have no pressure to get things done immediately or by a certain deadline. I wanted to make sure I wrote about it because it is such a novel and peaceful feeling for me.

So, even though I know your traveling comes naturally to you, please help me to understand why the traveling is so rewarding from your personal perspective.

04/22/2012, Joe Writes:  I’ve noticed that I write much more when there there are significant changes going on in my life. Those changes might involve relationships, jobs, moving, death of a loved one or maybe just a long, exciting vacation. I think the common thread that pushes this desire to write is the discovery of unexplored territory. I feed on this discovery, whether the change is internal or external, whether it’s pleasurable or painful, it opens up new pathways in my brain, new ways of looking at the world, new ways of understanding myself. Traveling to, and learning about, different cultures is a relatively safe way of doing this.

What is it that causes that perfectly respectful, successful, loving husband and father to go out and buy a sports car and run off with his secretary to Key West? Why would he leave his loving wife and his children that desperately need him? I don’t think it’s just for the sex! Could it be our thirst for action, for change, for adventure, for risk? Our modern industrialized profit-oriented society has pushed both men and women outside of there own internal norms that have been inbred in us for millennium. We have been hunters and gatherers for thousands of years. We are now stuck in offices and cubicles looking at computer screens with blank stares on our faces. Our prisons are full of those same people locked in cubicles with blank stares on their faces. Locked up mostly because of drug abuse. The most “successfully” industrialized nation in the world, the US, also has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Is that just a coincidence?? What is the most significant health issue on our Indian reservations? Drug abuse. Is that just a coincidence?? The Indians are our closest link to our hunter/gatherer ancestors. What are they telling us?

Why do I travel? It’s in my blood. I follow in my Fathers, my Grandfathers, my Great Grand-fathers footsteps. All of them either sailors or merchant marines or trappers or explorers or just vagabonds. In that random combination of genetics, I got the gene and I know if I fight it there will unpleasant consequences. Depression, anxiety, anger, drug abuse? Who knows but I don’t want to find out. It is oh so much more pleasurable to give in to the instinct, to open your arms and your mind and your heart to the world and let it flow in. AND more specifically to open my senses to the food, the coffee, the flavors, the aromas, the textures, the coffee, the sounds, the people, the coff………..hmmmm, I’m picking up on a subtle message………I’m laying in my bed in a hotel room just south of DC and there is something calling to me………it’s a subtle demand for me to get up and out and in search for that next perfect cappuccino. I must listen to the warrior within, the animal craving adventure, even danger!!!! I’m off to DC and a yet to be discovered new coffee shop!!!! Pray for me…..

04/21/2012, Elaine Writes: And speaking of our different perspectives on traveling…why is it that I am always one heart beat away from cardiac arrest on these trips of ours? Note this exerpt from our trip to Panama below. (Reference our 2010: Panama page) Do you notice any recurring theme?

     I just finished kissing the ground of the hotel parking lot. Why? Because we made it back safely from a trip to the Hipodromo again. Remember when we tried this same trip on Sunday, and I thought it was the rain that made it so scary? Well, I was wrong. It was scary even without the rain! The traffic going into Panama city must be experienced in order to capture the core of true terror. Joe is like a chameleon. He is able to turn native as soon as he puts the key in the ignition. The only problem is, the natives do not seem to understand these little inconveniences known as traffic lanes, safe distances between vehicles and speed limits. I was so afraid, I honestly could not swallow my heart back fast enough to keep the blood circulating through my body. Joe stopped so close to the back bumper of the car in front of him that I could literally see what was in that next driver’s ash tray. My father even found himself yelping and questioning our sanity for going out in this city traffic. There were school buses (which is their mass transit) crowded with people and then lines of more people waiting for the next bus. I wondered where they all came from. Where were they working all day. How could they tolerate the heat and the traffic–and the crowding? It made me appreciate my little mediocre existence in Niceville. It’s strange but when you have a life-altering experience such as the near-death rush hour we had tonight, it’s almost like you forget where you came from…where you live when you’re not gasping for your next breath. But it came back to me as I typed these words; I felt a faint comfort in the memory of street signs in English, traffic lights that work, cops ready to write a citation for speeding, and people who actually wait for the light to change before darting out in the middle of traffic.

I told my parents when we had finally arrived at the racetrack that we should bet every cent we had since we obviously had won the “life” lottery by just making it to our destination. They chuckled, but it was obvious they were mainly focused on thanking God and the stability of our rental car’s brake system, bumper, power steering, seat belts and driver. None of us could picture ourselves driving in this traffic and we were very grateful to have Joe and his reflexes to chauffer us through the city. 


I know I spent an inordinate time describing the traffic and I will stop now, but I think you get the picture of how great an impact it had on this trip. So, now let’s talk about the hipodromo. I have to laugh as I think about it because I went dressed as if I was going to be sitting in the club house at Yonkers raceway. In reality, this place was a cross between a really loud discotheque with music you would hear on separate floors playing side-by-side in an ear-splitting cocophany and a county fair–but with horses in the middle. There was no club house. I was so over-dressed it was laughable. Who knew? I will say that the drinks were stiff and cheap. I paid one dollar for a rum and coke that I couldn’t even drink because it was so strong I couldn’t find the coke in it. Joe said that rum is less expensive here than coke. Personally, I think it has to do with lowering inhibitions so people will bet more money. We left after the 5 race. None of us could stand the noise. Thankfully, we were able to stay on the highway back to the hotel and made it “home” in no time. We are back in our room now. Safe and sound. One more day, then we’ll be back in the states and in our own bed again. Funny how important the little things one takes for granted on a daily basis can seem when they are missing. I don’t see myself retiring in Panama. But I do see myself retiring to bed right now. All the adrenalin has poured out of me and now I am left with pure exhaustion. Tomorrow, we will take our last tour. Pray for us.

04/22/2012, Joe Writes: Elaine has several times commented on her lack of that ‘traveling’ mentality. I am actually concerned that she is going to surpass me in that endeavor. I’ve found that Elaine has set some pretty ‘firm’ social barriers in her life and for those of us who are lucky enough to be inside her circle we quickly learn why. She so easily connects with the world around her, she feels other peoples joys and sorrows to such an extent that she has to protect herself from it on a daily basis. But, that barrier she has is actually quite brittle and once broken down she often zooms past me and I’m left standing with a shocked look in my eyes as I start to play catch up.  During our last trip to Croatia her backpack weighed significantly less than mine!!


and as Elaine Surpasses Joe……

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04/22/2012, Elaine Writes:  On this Sunday morning, just one full week after leaving my job, I decided to ask myself yet again, “What would make you happy, Elaine.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer this question other than stay in my PJs and make a nice breakfast. After speaking to Joe I came back to the blog and read his post about how I could surpass him. It was very helpful because it made me think of the times I actually have picked up on nuances, or individual needs/problems when we’ve been out and about that had escaped his notice. Then I went outside and realized how wonderful it was to be in the hot tub, the sun shining, birds in the bird feeder right in front of me. The wind a perfect blend of coolness but warmed by the sun. Initially I thought, “why am I leaving this” and “this just isn’t going to work–all this globe trotting stuff.”

But then I asked myself the #1 Question: What is consistent with your goals and values?

Well, first my promise to Joe that I would let him have his turn if I got what I needed. I want more than anything to do the right thing.

Second, I value my marriage and the relationship which as Joe has noted in his earlier writings– the relationship is a super-entity, more than each one of our individual needs added together.

If this is the case then, what to do? Do I stay in my comfortable world in safe little Niceville? Do I move to the wilds of Thailand in order to placate my husband on the hopes that I will enjoy the experience? After thinking more about it, I realized I am willing to do the wilds of Thailand because I have made a commitment. But, I will also make counter offers that soothe my taste and be hopefully just as fulfilling to Joe. Like, how about back packing in a scenic place. Taking some adventurous sails? Staying in a log cabin some where in New England?

In other words, I am going to do some long and hard thinking about what I would enjoy if I were a traveler-type, the whole “acting as if” thing–and I am going to give suggestions right along with Joe so we can have a wide range of selections. Knowing our inner natures, I have a feeling we will find things we would both love to do. The word faith just popped in my head. I realize I am developing more faith in in our relationship. Its funny because this is what Joe has been asking me for for the past few YEARS! So maybe my barriers aren’t so brittle afterall. But I can honestly say I have faith we will find a way to make this work. Whether Joe continues to work or not. Whether we move in with my parents and live in Spain. Whether we move to Boston for a year. The important thing is that we do it together. Isn’t it ironic that these times apart can help us to define the relationship best?

Oh, this reminds me of my other committment: “365 Days Living like Gibran”

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
Khalil Gibran

A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?
Khalil Gibran

And finally,

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Khalil Gibran

04/24/2012, Elaine Writes:  I have established a perfect little nest for myself out here on the deck with my computer and a jerryrhigged (sp?) umbrella to cover me. As I sit out and enjoy this retired life. I learned two things today which have caused me to revisit my conflicts about what retirement will look like for Joe and me.

First, I listened to a Unity Podcast about “Faith.” Essentially the message I received from the broadcast is that God resides in each of us. So for example, when we pray to this external omnipotent entity we call Jesus, or Buddha, or Allah or a tree in the woods, we are considering God to be near but separate from us. This unity belief is that God cannot be separate or “out there” for us to pray to because he resides IN us. We carry God inside of us and we need look no further than our existing self to find the answers, the solutions, the life we seek. The other message is that as a consequence of having God reside within us, our possibilities are limitless. The old conservative practice of hoping for the best but expecting the worst dooms us to experience the worst. It is just a spin on my firm belief that we find what we are looking for. Our mind filters incoming stimuli and tranforms it into a perception and we fashion our lives around that perception. If I expect life to be dangerous and people to be selfish and one-police-officer away from committing a crime for personal gain, then I will want to stay home and shut out that big, bad world. If I think of the world as a gift and people as living their lives in the best way they know how, then I might want to unwrap the contents of the places and creatures around me each day with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

The filter takes the same information but does dramatically different things depending on your orientation. For instance, take the phrase, “Life is short.” The first filter will say, “Because life is short…I must be on guard at every moment for possible danger. I can only go to places where it is safe and I have the greatest likelihood of coming out alive.” This could mean my living room, the supermarket, perhaps a short walk around the neighborhood or a drive to some nearby gym/park. It might mean reading books for pleasure, watching television, Netflix, surfing the internet. Filter #2 is admittedly pretty foreign to me, but I read an article in one of my psychology journals that seemed to describe it well. It had to to with retirement and how people who are high in Creativity seem to enjoy and look forward to retirement in ways that the uncreative do not.

The article is entitled, “Is Retirement Always Stressful? The Potential Impact of Creativity.” The author, Ryan Fehr, took the position that post-retirement well-being is a product of personality (I would substitute filter) and that it does not have to be associated with stress and fear. He noted that creative people fare better in retirement because they look beyond the routine worries of adequate income and social support and rely on their delight of novelty, their desire for new experiences and the variety of their interests to keep them pumped about retirement. For these people, retirement goes from something to be feared and dreaded to an “energizing, fulfilling experience.” To paraphrase the author, these creative types set their filters for beauty (looking for it everywhere/anywhere) and they hold an unyielding faith in their ability to solve whatever challenges arise in their environment. So to repeat, they have confidence–but I will call it faith–that they can overcome any adversity that life throws at them. Do these people instinctively know they carry God inside them?

I am combining now, the Unity message with this scientific research to say that maybe, if we move from the realm of “personality” or even filter, and say that all of us can turn to the God that exists within each and every one of us to help us solve whatever problems/challenges arise, we can find happiness in retirement and in life.

Looking at my personal tendencies, I can say that I naturally fall into the category of the kind of person the author describes as scared of retirment. These individuals are uncomfortable with role transitions (even within their same job), they do not tend to change jobs/vocations. They take comfort in familiarity and routine. They look for firm answers that leave little room for doubt about how to proceed. When they look forward to retirement, it is as a relief from work stress, not based on a need for novelty or for self-actualization.

What does all this mean for our retirement? Well, it makes sense to me why Joe and I have had such different ideas about how we want to spend our years of “active” retired life. You know, those years when we can still hike, run from danger, see the details in our environment, hear high frequency sounds, go through a day without having to take some sort of medicine or wait for “meals on wheels” to plan and bring us our daily sustenr ance. I have thought about keeping this house for the latter years, I have enjoyed going out each day to the hot tub, watching the birds and fish close enough to touch, envisioning some short sails to new places, enjoying talking to the neighbors and realizing they would have my back if something went wrong. It makes sense because my natural filter is relativley less creative and mostly security loving. Joe on the other hand is ultra-creative–loves painting, playing instruments, seeing new things, meeting new people. He believes in his ability to quickly adjust to new circumstances and to figure his way out of any dillema.

So how do our two filters rise to create a greater reality embodied by our relationship? This is the struggle. I am perfectly happy with the serentiy (familiarity) I have found here. Joe is perfectly unhappy with it. At the same time I do want to widen my filter and I want to be in the company of one of the coolest people I have ever met, my own husband! This all requires effort and, face it, discomfort.

Can a person who is stability loving BECOME “creative.”

Of course, I have aspects of my personality which are highly creative, hence this effort at self-therapy I call writing. At the same time, I think Joe said it best when we first met and he noted that the cake of his personality was already baked. By extension, so is mine. But then, how can such polar opposites take such joy in spending time together? I am convinced we are a marriage of minds not just a legal union. I also personally think I am great at problem solving–as long as it doesn’t require math. Here’s an insight, if Joe and I are both great problem solvers and we love spending time together we should be able to solve this problem. There are thngs I requre for my peace of mind, and there are things he requires. None of us is less important, neither is the holder of more trivial needs. If we can stick to the “I Thou” approach and build our futures based on dreams not fears, we will find true happiness.

Next step–talk about the house again, and look into pilgrimages. I love this retirement thing!