Guest Blogger 2007: Susan Fisher
Guest Blogger 2007: Mick Brady

Guest Blogger 2007: Claudia Snowden

[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers.

Claudia Snowden, who blogs at Fried Okra Productions, is here today with a story titled Kokopelliwoman's Paradigm. Please make her welcome with lots of comments and visit her blog too.]


Working for a university these days is like taking one step forward and two steps back. We received a letter from the Prez saying that the Texas State legislature budgeted precious few monies for the next biennium. Then I had to "choose" our single remaining insurance plan. Next week staff dial-up internet goes away.

None of this is inherently negative or bad. It is rather disconcerting, however, to realize that my Golden Years may be more modestly funded than I had planned, prompting a reality check that paradigm shifts come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some appear in a blinding flash; others span decades.

There's a growing flood of elders who cannot afford to retire, regardless of whether or not we enjoy our work. This is not a matter of stopping all meaningful work to embark on some completely separate, magical journey - ceasing work that you truly love, that helps you remain productive. For me, this means remaining at my current job as long as possible, and supplementing with a side gig.

I tried that for close to a year. Selling and relentlessly/endlessly folding infant and toddler clothing in a high-end retail store for 20-40 hours a week on top of my day gig. Brutal. I fell asleep every time I sat down. Paradigm as rug yanked from under you. I did get an interesting scar.

That was several shifts ago. Lately, the frequency seems to be increasing. I'm beginning to believe that aging is a paradigm shift per se. The adventures never stop. This aging thing takes a lot of ingenuity, especially if you have limited resources. Acting against my instincts tends to attract negative shifts, so I've learned to depend on my intuition. The trick is to surf on top of the changes.

When I was six, my parents told us the Easter Bunny was too poor to visit that year. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. In one fell swoop, all my childhood icons crumbled to reveal my folk's solemn faces in the dashboard light of our '52 Chevy. I swallowed the revelation with good grace. A pleasant fantasy, nourishment for a robust imagination. After all, I was growing up, and that was good. I was satisfied with my new perspective.

Since then, I've racked up a few "aha" moments. For instance, I assumed that everyone lived by the Golden Rule. Wrong. Took years to sink in that the world is not fair, and that it was unrealistic to expect it to be so. About that time, I finally understood that the only person you can change is yourself.

A little later, I lived in Sydney for two years. Australians drive on the left. I actually felt the shift when my brain reversed directions. Driving was easy - when you see oncoming traffic, you'll automatically move to the left. It was much harder to adapt when walking. The childhood habit of looking right-left-right before crossing the street goes deep. Takes longer to make the flip. Oddly, walking didn't shift back when I returned. I continue to move left with oncoming pedestrians.

Recent shifts involve health issues. We've all been there. Some not especially good news that rips through your denial and turns your lifestyle upside down. That cold ball of fear in the pit of your stomach that tells you this paradigm shift means business. You are closer to death than to birth. Death and birth are cyclical, in a benign interpretation of that particular paradigm.

Some shifts sneak up on you. Think back to the early 1970's, and to the groundswell of concern about oil and the environment. We predicted that in thirty years we would be in an oil crisis. I allowed myself to be distracted. I lost that urgent drive to save the planet.

Look what happened. The mess is worse than we predicted. We're hardly batting an eye while the current administration burns the house down with everyone in it. I guess some of us were not so distracted, and got busy manifesting that which we most dreaded.

Here's a happy shift: I don't care if anyone finds me attractive or even likes me. Great for reducing stress and saving money. I don't have to listen to commercials, read advertisements, or be bombarded with exactly why I'm not OK with the rest of the world. Makeup ads don't move me. IMHO, "looking younger" is a fantasy, and a complete waste of money. I'm not saying one shouldn't feel good about ones' self. That's part of being healthy.

Listen up - aging is not a sin or affliction, much in the same way that pregnancy and childbirth is not an illness. It's just life, folks. Growing old is cool, considering the alternative. Replace those worn-out, shallow paradigms with making someone's life a little better, take a trip to Prague, or write poetry.

Good or bad, I'm in for the ride. From daily minutiae to world-shaking events to mind-blowing revelations, I'll take any lesson the universal gear box torques out rather than live with a brittle, closed mind. Shifting can keep you agile and increase your options. Have you had a paradigm shift lately? Let's hear about it.

Comments

You've made some excellent points here! God knows my life as an elder isn't what I had hoped for but I just do the best I can with what I have to work with -- it isn't always fun but it's all part of the adventure I call life.

As the circumstances of life changed, the hardest adjustment for me to accept was the reality that justice does not always triumph. Sometimes evil people win and good people get dealt the worst cards in the deck. The biggest difference between being young and being old is that experience dims the dewy eyes of youth.

This is an excellent post, so well written, one of the best I've read in a while. I don't even know where to begin as there is so much "meat" in what you've expressed.

I've learned what you've learned. Surfing, going with the flow, whatever the words or phrases, I learned "how to" at a very early age. I had a hard time accepting "life is not fair" though I knew it to be true from childhood. Doing all the right things, making all the right choices, is just not always enough.

A profound lesson I learned was that I could not control as much as I thought I could or should; that the only person I could ever hope to change was myself.

Thanks for the great post. All things I have thought about but haven't expressed them as well as you have.

I am here at Gnomedex with Ronni, and I am delighted at how accepting the group is of us. Her presentation was very well received, as young techies began to become aware of how they have to fix computers for elderly peoples' use. They seemed to welcome the information.
I have begun to accept my role as an elder and actually delight in it (I can pretend I have wisdom).

I'm in the same position you are, Claudia --I will never be able to retire. Who knew?

Well said, Claudia. I've come to realize that what was so important five, ten, twenty years ago no longer matters and what I took for granted or never thought of is now of prime concern. It's not what I have, but who loves me.

Kay,

Thank you so much for commenting. I think we participate in adventures with more appreciation and enjoyment in our later years. We look more for intrinsic value than to simply say, "oh, yeah, I've been there."

Hi, Darlene. So that's why I'm not seeing so well these days :)
Mystery solved! Thanks for your comment.

joared. That was the toughest lesson for me to learn--to acknowledge that it is impossible to change anyone but myself. I clung stubbornly to the unrealistic premise of "control" for many years before I could accept the truth. Your comment is so kind, thanks.

Stephen, I would love to hear about some of your experiences. I'm quite sure that you would have no problem expressing your thoughts, especially in this forum, with people who are fellow travelers. We need more dialogue among folks our age. Thanks for reading!

Francine, how wonderful to be at Gnomedex with Ronni! That's proof positive you have wisdom in my book :) Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Well said your own self, suzz. I would only add that in addition to who loves us, having an expanded capacity to love back is a characteristic of aging well.

Great post, Claudia! I've experienced a paradigm shift just in the last few weeks since it became clear that I would be leaving my long term contracting engagement. People I worked with just don't share my vision of the possibilities that lie ahead. After lots of informal parting conversations I see that each of us puts limit on ourselves in terms of what we can expect to do next. I enjoyed reading your post. You seem to have a good grasp of what's real and what's not.

I find myself feeling unexpectedly secure and contented in my 60s. On those rare occasions when I compare myself unfavorably to others who have more than I do, I shift my perspective by thinking how royalty of only a hundred or so years ago would have loved to have the conveniences and entertainments I enjoy each day. And I compare myself to the five billion humans on this planet today who would love to exchange places with me. And I remember where I started out in this life: in a 19 foot travel trailer with an alcoholic, mentally-ill father in charge of our family's security and stability. Soon I realize just how good I have it today in my two-bedroom rented townhouse with a husband I love and who loves me after 41 years of marriage. My 40 year old son lives next door with his two Siamese cats, my grandkitties. I have friends, meaningful activities, books to read and the leisure I always longed for. I am fortunate indeed. My health is excellent, I am fit and reasonably trim. I can easily converse with intelligent and thoughtful people like yourselves all over the world. What more could I ask? Only that it would all last forever. Gratitude leads to contentment and contentment is the greatest wealth. May you all find both today and all days.

Hi, Frank. Yes, sometimes it's tough to find concensus on brave new ideas. Don't you love that Ronni has created a forum for us to communicate with folks who understand what we envision for the future? Thanks for your comment.

Barbara, what an evolved philosophy. Thank you for reminding me to be mindful and appreciative of what I do have. Especially in the context you have described.

Excellent post. I'm 51 and always thought I'd be able to retire and enjoy my golden years but now that the time is at hand I've discovered that retirement is a myth. If the company that I've devoted 30 years to would let me keep my medical benefits it would be a different matter but the age of retirement is also the age that your health becomes a major consern and the insurance companies are very expensive when your older and have pre-existing conditions. Guess I'll have to work until I fall over or Uncle Sam deems me old enough to draw benefits (providing the SSI doesn't go broke first)

Junebugg, your post underscores the need for a decent health care program in the US. Many other countries have dealt with this problem successfully--there's no reason we can't as well. Thanks for your comment.

Until I was about 40, I was acompulsive planner. I wanted to know exactly what my day was going to be--I guess so that I could first dread it, then endure it, and finally regret it. The is the special hell that controllers construct for themselves.

I'm a lot better now at enjoying the day I get without worrying so much about the day I planned.

What's made the difference in me? The only explanation I can offer is age. Pure and simple.

Of All people I know Claudia, you have been able to navigate those paradigm shifts with such fluidity. I've enjoyed your post : )
joe

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