Category Archives: On Retirement

Arriving Naked

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RetirementTelling Lies: During the 1980’s when conspicuous consumption was the flavour of the decade, an insidious marketing slogan saturated our spongy boomer-brains like a pop-culture virus. It promised us freedom from life’s miseries when we arrived at the magic age of fifty-five. We aspired to live like the advertisements and longed to become the beautiful retirees lounging in oceanfront hot-tubs and roaming the golfing green pastures of everlasting fun in the sun. But life is full of Mrs. Cleaver’s sweater-sets and pearls until one day reality comes of age and bites you on your assets.

Reality Check: Now we find ourselves in an ongoing economic downturn where many people are ‘fretting 55’ instead of planning their escape route into nirvana. Like programmed humanoids, we continue to think that if we aren’t rich and free by middle-age, we have failed in our life’s mission to hurry up and do nothing. Get real folks!

Easy Money: In the 1970’s, financial institutions came out of their cash-closets and made it easy for people to borrow money. Since then, credit has been increasingly used to supplement income so we could all buy now and pay later. Years later! And even today, boomers still hold the biggest bag of debt.

Time to Pay: So what are we going to do about it? Stop whining for starters. Stop spending and start living a life we can afford…especially as we age. Debt makes the lenders rich, not the customers. So it’s up to boomers to cut the crap and the plastic.

Empty promises: Exacerbating the whole credit issue is the repository of bare bones left buried in so many savings portfolios. With the downturn in the economy and interest rates, much of our anticipated nest eggs have been cracked open and left to rot in dried up investment pools. If I hear, “You have to think long term,” one more time, I‘ll barf up my worthless stock certificates. It’s the standard line used by investment hounds to keep your hard earned pennies from escaping into the nearest woolen sock.

Taking Charge: So how do we know when it’s time to relax a bit and switch gears? Sometimes we make a conscious choice and sometimes it whacks us up the side of the head. In today’s climate, most people need or want to work after 55. And with the future of our government pension plans up for grabs, and more companies opting out of cushy pension perks, there should be honour in working at whatever we want to for as long as we can.

Arriving Naked: But starting over and exploring new options after decades in the workforce – whether by choice or not – is a scary thing to do. Who are we without our retired job titles, our network of contacts and our social grids? It’s like being reborn at mid-life and arriving naked without a business card. I left the raw-bone stresses of my corporate job for health reasons when I was in my fifties. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I plunged into my post-corporate life and reinvented myself to become a writer. I let go and never looked back.

Digging Deep: Finding new ways to live and work can be a daunting experience as we age. But every one of us is standing on a mountain of life experiences. Whether it’s setting out to find a passion we want to follow, or doing an about-face into a new career or volunteer position – it’s all good. We just have to go deep and be fearless.

Anything Goes: Many seniors are taking on jobs in retail and service industries, after years in a professional workforce. Some need the money and some simply need a place to go each day. Either way, if that means slinging java at a coffee shop, becoming a neighborhood crossing guard or doing the meet-and-greet thing at a department store, why the hell not? There’s less stress, simple hours, and at some places – a cool uniform.

Freedom to Choose: Each one of us should have the courage to choose when the time is right to arrive at our various destinations in life – naked or not. Freedom is about living life to the fullest; the good and the bad of it and on our own terms. It’s about choosing our lifestyles wisely and having the courage to simplify when we have to. And it’s about not thinking too hard if we have to back-up to go forward.

Bottom Line: So is there freedom after fifty-five you ask? Damn right there is! It’s all in our head!

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Check out my children’s books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com

 

Head Games

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I rant therefore I amBloggers Anonymous

Silver & Gold Spring Issue

  
           BOOMERRANTZ in Print


“Pat’s Boomerrantz” is now appearing in Silver and Gold magazine. My first column Arriving Naked is in the new spring issue. It can be viewed online by clicking on the magazine cover to the left…page 38. It’s all about, “Is there freedom after 55?” You’ll need to zoom in to read the text.

 

So with that news out of the way,
I have a few more things to say,
About this ‘Freedom 55’,
And all that mumbo-jumbo jive…

Hard-wired: Moving out of our fifties into the Scary World of Aging is about dealing with change and shifting gears with as much grace as we can muster. And nothing’s easy, because that’s life. In today’s troubled world, these worn out freedom 55 ideas about retirement have had their day. But like a manchurian candidate, we’re well programmed and continue to recite the marketing mantra.

All sizzle: So what’s it all about – our obsession with this freedom by 55 thing? This thing that we measure ourselves by? This thing we use to determine our success and failure? It’s simply a clever marketing slogan dreamed up in a corporate boardroom to make lots of money! Marketing is all about head games. It’s about re-wiring our brains, so our hearts and wallets will follow…like lemmings to the investment pool.

Clean sweep: So let’s keep it real people. Life isn’t a TV commercial. It’s time to stop the race toward this artificially inseminated perception of middle age. It’s time to pop the freedom 55 myth like a nasty zit. It’s time to sweep all these worn out notions into the dusty archives – along with moldy marketing slogans and other antiquated words like foolscap, hearken and slacks.

Enough said: Freedom is where it’s always been; right here, right now, everyday for those of us fortunate enough to live in a free world. So that being said…let’s get on with it.

So all these rantz inside my pantz,
Are music for my freedom dance,
Sometimes I need to shake it out,
That’s what this blog is all about!

Pat Skene

A Blemish in My Garments

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The first year after I retired,
I felt renewed and so inspired,
Then housework soaked my spongy brain,
And made me go a bit insane…

The year I left my busy working life to run free in the pastures of retirement, I was overwhelmed with an anxious energy to do everything I had missed out on in my life. I had no bucket list back then, just a longing to fill a whole bunch of empty spaces.

But that kind of desperate enthusiasm scrambled my brain and caused a few synapses to misfire. As it was happening, I wrote an article about my experience, which was published in several newspapers. The letters to the editor led me to believe I was not alone in my irrational behaviour.

It’s been nearly 14 years since I wrote that article. Keep in mind that I was in a quixotic state of divine domesticity. I have since reestablished my raison d’être and properly restored my sanity. Here’s my story…
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At Last, I’ve Found the Kitchen by Pat Skene

Toronto Star – 1998

“Success in housekeeping adds credit to the woman of intellect, and lustre to a woman’s accomplishments. No matter how talented a woman may be, or how useful in the church or society, if she is an indifferent housekeeper it is fatal to her influence, a foil to her brilliance and a blemish in her garments.”
THE HOME COOK BOOK, Toronto Rose Publishing Company, 1877

“Give her a wide berth,” I heard my husband whisper to my daughter, as I breezed through the kitchen to check on the contents of my new slow cooker.

“Mom bought a crock-pot?” she said, as she lurched backwards to get out of my way and slammed into my new rack of stainless steel cookware. “Where did those come from?” she complained, holding the side of her head.

Breathless, my husband continued as though I were not in the room. “And that’s not all. She has two boxes of mason jars in the basement. She wants to ‘do
down’ dill pickles and tomato relish. She’s been out everyday driving around the country roads, scouring the farms for fresh produce.”

“Geez, she’s even wearing an apron,” was all my daughter could say, as they stood in silence watching me with their eyes locked on my every move.

Poor things, this was all so sudden. It started very innocently really, when I bought a new dust mop and ironing board cover. I felt so harmoniously domestic after ironing my tea towels, that it spurred me on to clean behind the refrigerator and try out that new miracle floor cleaner I ordered from a home shopping catalogue.

This uncharacteristic burst of domesticity appeared suddenly in the first year of my retirement from corporate life. After many decades of being an exhausted working mother to my daughter and often-distracted partner to my husband, I left the rat race to preserve my energy, my health and to pursue my passion for
writing.

Like many working mothers, I still sported all the guilty baggage that busy parents usually bear well into their golden years. I worried about the scars my daughter had carved into her childhood, from deprivation of home cooked meals and the long-term effects of latchkey after-shock.

Instead, she managed to survive with professional parents who adored her and she became independent and self-sufficient at a very early age. In other
words, my baby grew up while I wasn’t looking and in spite of my lack of domesticity.

My husband banned me from the kitchen a long time ago, when he witnessed me teaching my daughter how to make a Christmas Meat Pie. He threatened to get a court order to stop me from teaching her how to cook.

So there I was, with my adult daughter and retired husband – ready to do the wife and mother thing – and all they could do was stare at me all goggle-eyed like kitchen road kill caught in the scent of my boneless rump roast.

As my family continued to tread softly around me with suspicions that it was just more Menopause Madness, I continued on my domestic journey. I washed the linens in logical color combinations, organized our kitchen shelves, cleaned out closets and dusted every piece of bric a brac I could find. All this, while my stuffed green peppers bubbled deliciously in my new state-of-the-art crock-pot.

I approached my household responsibilities with the same appetite as I did my career. I savored the goodness of field-ripened tomatoes and the emotional harmony that flowed from a clean, organized home. Simplicity in a world of complications seemed to take on a rhythm of its own.

Unfortunately, while I harvested these revelations along with my bounty of summer vegetables, my family suffered future shock from my sudden coming in and out of the broom closet.

Was I morphing through a type of corporate decompression chamber? Maybe. I’d come to accept that I couldn’t rewind all the days I wasted away, the days I took for granted, the working weekends, the conferences, the cold dinners and the baby-sitters. But I needed to believe that it wasn’t too late to start paying attention to the things that mattered most and to some things that never seemed to matter at all.

I busied myself with long neglected writing projects and I enjoyed being a friend to my daughter, not to mention a new and improved partner to my husband. And in between the exciting chapters on my word processor and the scary experiments in my food processor, I might even try my hand at making Christmas gifts this year, if it doesn’t push my family over the edge. (September 1998)
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So read the quote above in blue,
And tell me, what’s a gal to do?
That ‘blemish in her garments’ threat,
Is something I cannot forget…

Pat Skene