[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.