Three Generations Under One Roof
INTERESTING STUFF – 22 November 2014

The Gift of Freedom in the Third Act of Life

”I’ve learned my lines. The house lights have dimmed and I’ve just walked center stage for the third act of the play I started writing long ago. And within the physical, economic and intellectual framework of being an 'old guy,' the third act is full of opportunity to grow, acting on my own terms, at my own pace.

That's Marc Leavitt talking. You know him – he is a regular contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place and he blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog.

His declaration was contained in an email exchange between us about freedom in old age that began when Marc wrote:

”One aspect of The Third Act that old people underplay, is the gift of freedom from the banal exigencies of daily life.

“When I get up on the morning after a heavy blizzard and look out the window at the pure, clean expanse of snow, trees and bushes heavy with last night’s results, I smile, and take another sip of strong, black coffee, and turn on NPR for background noise while I ponder my plans for the day.”

Yessss. As I've mentioned here in the past, in the near 50 years of my working life, I mostly had fascinating jobs I was eager to get to each day. But the regimentation, the morning schedule to shower, dress, feed the cat, gulp of coffee and get to the subway – well, I always wished for more flexibility and more time to myself.

The funny thing is now that I've got all the flexibility I want, I still maintain a morning routine and it's not all that different except for the subway. The important difference is that it is all my choice these days.

Marc continues by recounting the stuff he doesn't do anymore:

”I haven’t shaved in nearly a decade, and I’m not going outside to shovel out my car and slip and slide my way to a job that someone else is welcome to.

“No need to make nice to that silly pompous bastard down the hall; no need to pretend interest in which team is going to the Super Bowl, or listen to the back-biting remarks that pass for conversation in the office.”

Me too. Nowadays, I'm learning to walk away when whatever it is isn't engaging, amusing or fulfilling anymore. That can be as simple as not finishing a book that doesn't grab me enough or as complex as leaving behind a person who causes more pain than companionship.

That doesn't mean there are no obligations. Only that I can choose them for myself now and, as Marc says, I no longer need to pretend to care when I don't.

I can't speak for you, but I know that until Marc mentioned it, I had not appreciated enough this gift of freedom that arrived unexpectedly with old age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: Episode at Michael's


Oh how Marc's words hit the right spot. I wake up feeling great joy every single day, knowing I am free to do whatever I feel like doing.

No shaving for me either because leg hair has disappeared.


The freedom to choose.

The freedom to say no.

The freedom to wear what you choose to wear.

The freedom to move.

The freedom to be spontaneous.

The freedom to kick ass wherever ass should be kicked.

The freedom to live your life on your terms.

The freedom to get things done. Stuff you had no time for when you were tied to your career.

The freedom to volunteer for something you believe in, rather than something you were pressured to do.

The freedom to read all day if you feel like it.

The freedom to slam the door on coulda, woulda, shoulda. You are not the wake of your boat.y

I recommend this book:

"The Kitchen House,"
Kathleen Grissom

Marc Leavitt rocks.

The freedom to go back and fix a typo.

That should be "boat," not boat.y

It wasn't me. it was my tablet.

Old age is wasted on the elderly. Where was all of this freedom when I needed it. There was not a time, when I was young, that I did not feel stressed out. The pressures of youth wore heavily on my shoulders. School, work, marriage, family, friends, the IRS, all conspired to make my life miserable. Now, that I am finally devoid of most of those responsibilities, my time left to enjoy life is coming to an end.Therefor, I propose that we do it all backwards. Upon completion of high school, every youngster should be given a stipend (say, $100, 000 per year) to do what they want. Then at the age of 65, put everyone of them to work to pay back the money that was given to them. There are still some details to work out, but not now. The guys with the white coats are coming for me.

Well said, Marc.

I'm one of those people who did exactly what I wanted until I was about 40. In my early 20's I got on a boat to Europe, bummed around for about 10 years, and then returned to NY, only to meet one of the loves of my life, with whom I moved to a Colorado ski resort. Even when we were divorced when I was 40 and I started working for a large company, I made sure they'd allow me to take unpaid time off every few years to take care of my need to be free and maybe travel some more.

Somehow I ended up with enough money, not from the ex, to enjoy a great retirement -- not having children helped -- but there are moments that I think I'll wake up from this unbelievable life I had and am still having.

I'm in the fourth quarter of my life, and have the freedom to work only part-time only thanks to Section 8 senior housing. Give BIG thanks if you worked in a profession or industry that let you "save for old age". But I wouldn't give up the joys, sorrows, struggles and wonder of spending 35 years in non-profit child day care for all the tea in China.

It is and was all worth it.

My mantra for Now:

"It's my turn to play!"

Marc sounds like my kind of cynic

This freedom from daily obligations to an employer is a major source of pleasure in my life. My theory is that we are all traumatized by our work life. I think it takes several years to shake off memories and regrets, but after you go through that, retirement becomes truly an experience in personal freedom. But of course we do end up at the doctor more often than before!

This is one of the most comforting posts. Thank you so much. I intend to read it often.

Loved this post!

So happy to be free from the tyranny of the alarm clock! (and all it signified)

Every single day I feel the joy we used to feel when there was an unexpected day off from school. I don't think I would feel this particular kind of joy if I hadn't had over 30 years of employment. No matter if you loved your job (and worse if you didn't), the daily grind means putting up with stuff you don't like and you didn't choose.

The day I retired I stopped wearing makeup. I never wear pantyhose except for funerals. I do only what I damn well please. I do a LOT of volunteer work, but I turn down all requests that I don't want to do.

Best of all, I have the deep and wide wisdom to look around me and appreciate everything I have. Life Is Good.

Another freedom to celebrate: No more 25 mile commutes to and from work every day on increasingly crowded I-5 north and south. So stressful and exhausting even in a van-pool with someone else driving.

@Anne, I loved your line about "never wearing pantyhose except for funerals." Right on!

There are two reasons I don't chortle more about this: I don't want to sadden the elders who are still struggling to make enough $$ to live on, and I don't want to dishearten the young. My dad used to say, "Just keep paying my Social Security, Lynne." He meant it as a joke but I didn't think it was all that funny.

Although I am still up very early in the mornings and out the door to run errands before the traffic gets heavy, I no longer go out after 5 pm unless it's something I really want to do, and there are very few of those things. My brain is tired by 4 pm and my extrovert personality has grown quiet and unwilling to carry the conversation that are necessary for evening socializing.

"Get up,
Get out of bed,
Drag a comb across my head.
Make my way downstairs and have a cup,
And looking up
I noticed I was late...."

I know you don't like the Beatles, Ronni, but this describes the every-morning routine very well. "A Day in the Life" it is called.

For those of us who loved/hated our jobs the first months of unemployment are a shock. Especially those of us who were "made redundant," who were "let go" and didn't retire willingly. Now I don't think I could go back to work. It makes me tired just to think of it!

I just have to step in to defend myself: whoever said I don't like the Beatles? Why would I not like the Beatles? What's not to like?

Please - don't lay opinions on me that aren't mine.

Nearing the end of my second year of retirement and Anne described the feeling well as that real excitement that I remember from an unexpected snow day from school.
What joy there is in the exploring!

I guess I am wise because I knew this the day I retired. I could speak my mind (with courtesy) and no longer had to be nice to people who were angry or who lived on criticism. I could select who I talked to and I could also not talk to anyone for as long as I want. I also have time to explore new classes, new hobbies new interests!

Only five more days for me until retirement, so today's column is especially relevant. I will be so glad to ditch the makeup, jewelry, dry cleaners, pantyhose, daily hair fix up and most of all the dreaded 6am alarm. I have never been a morning person in all my 40 years of work life.

Then there is the toxic, mind-numbing, politically charged work environment that I'm sure is familiar to many of you here. What relief it is to leave that all behind! The millennials can have it.

Nope - I'm as excited as a child on Christmas Eve! It's almost surreal.

Amen to Bruce. Money at the BEGINNING of life - to experiment and explore. Instead of being herded thru life as we are now.

Social Security beginning at birth. Why not?

I do love Monday mornings these days, and NOT being on the freeway.

I do love the freedom of retirement, especially the ticket it gave me to be an unrepentant night owl and leave the mornings to those who like them. However, it would have been to my advantage health-wise to have kept up a little more of the physical discipline. Not having to worry about pantyhose or fitting into your business clothes was great until one got to the point of not being able to fit into anything and having a few fat-related illnesses. I am trying to correct things now but I think it's too late. My advice to new retirees: ditch the daily pantyhose, but keep trying them on just to be sure they still fit. -Meg

I just wrote yesterday in my blog that the unforseen gift of retirement is the stretch of time to do what I like.

I've read this post and its comments with interest. I hope you can cheer me up. I'm 63. I took voluntary redundancy a year ago, and really looked forward to release from everything you describe here. I had loads of plans. But I'm finding it hard to cope with all the freedom to do anything I want, and instead I seem to be wasting a lot of time doing nothing very much. Some days, it's all I can do to stop myself sleeping through the day, or watching hours of TV. I was so excited at the start, but now I feel... well, I guess I feel rather pointless. And as I look ahead at possibly one or two or even three more decades of this, I don't know what to think. I'm sure lots of you have gone through this. Please advise!

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