Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Savor It!

The last weekend in October Dave and I went to Norwich, Vermont to attend a pasta making class at King Arthur Flour’s baking school. In the three-hour class we learned the fine art of making fresh pasta—weighing the flour, incorporating the eggs, kneading the dough, and cutting it into common shapes. 

We invited friends to join us—Dave’s college roommate and his wife. The fun started before class when we got together to enjoy a beer and glass of wine while catching up on what’s happening in our lives. The laughter carried on as we worked to form the perfect shaped fettuccine, ravioli and tortellini, followed with a pasta meal after class. 

Even though two weeks have passed since our class, positive emotion lingers as we reflect on our time together and the shared practice of pasta making. Actually, this isn’t surprising considering this experience has all the ingredients for creating a psychological state called savoring.

According to Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff, authors of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, people have “capacities to attend to, appreciate and enhance positive experiences in their lives.” Strategies that boost this capacity include sharing an experience with others, having pictures or a memento to remember the event, celebrating the event, engaging all our senses in the experience, and being completely absorbed in the activity. As I said, all these “ingredients” were present in our pasta-making weekend.

If we wanted pasta for dinner, we could have saved $170 by going to the grocery store and paying $1.00 for a pound of fettuccine. We could have avoided driving three hours from Saratoga to Norwich, and back. But if we had done this, I wouldn’t be writing about the experience. It would not have contributed to an ongoing sense of happiness and positive emotion.

Now that we’re “expert” pasta makers, our plan is to host pasta-making parties with friends. And in doing so, we’ll create more opportunities for positive experiences.

Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Patrice Jenkins.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Start Where You Are

Today is the day to dust off your retirement dreams. Begin by writing down what you imagined doing in retirement. Don’t edit. Crazy ideas are the most fun to bring to life. They provide the chapters in your life story that your children and grandchildren will talk about for years.

Now take a close look at your list. Is there a dream that seem impossible to achieve or improbable at best? Is there a big divide between where you are and where you want to be? When the gap appears impassible, it’s easier and more comfortable to dismiss your big ideas and try to convince yourself they’re no longer important to you. Before you do this, let me tell you something about camels.

Being married to a veterinarian contributes to knowing some unusual, interesting facts about animals. One is that camels won’t step over something if they can’t see the bottom. The Catskill Game Farm built a trench 18 inches wide and 24 inches deep, similar to a moat but without water, to confine the camels. There was no fence. No need for a fence. The camels believed the ditch was un-crossable. If they had tested this limiting belief, they could have easily stepped over the 18-inch divide and been set free.

Is there something keeping you from living the life you imagined in retirement? Is there a limiting belief that needs to be challenged?

Like camels, we view the gap between where we are and where we want to be as impassible, which keeps us from stepping over into a dream or goal we had for this stage of life. To move toward our dreams we need to start where we are. Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Don’t wait for a bridge to be built across the moat.

Take the first smallest step, and find out that you can.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

What did you say?

Over seven years ago I went to an audiologist to have my hearing evaluated. My husband had a friend with hearing loss that was reversible. He said maybe I had that type of problem and if I didn’t wait too long it could be corrected.

I went to the appointment, and like a good student, I answered all the beeps correctly. At least I thought I did. When the doctor shared her report, the graph had a big dip in the middle, typical of hereditary-related hearing impairment. I didn’t have the type of loss that Dave’s friend had. Mine couldn’t be “fixed.” The audiologist suggested I get fit for hearing aids. Right then. I said maybe I would in five years, gathered my stuff, went out to my car, and cried.

Fast forward seven years…

January 6, 2019 I decided this was going to be my “Best Year Yet.” I wrote a letter dated one year later—as if I had already lived 2019. In the letter I described what contributed to this being a year of growth, joy, health, family, friends, and other things that I value. In the letter I wrote, “I got hearing aids.”

Occasionally I read the letter to check how I’m tracking. Buy a larger condo—check. Maintain weight loss—check. Host more dinner parties—check. Get hearing aids—no check. And so in September I made another appointment with a hearing doctor. This time I knew the results would show hearing impairment. I knew hearing aids were the answer.

Fortunately I had a really nice technician who explained how the hearing aids work. She understood the emotional part as well as the technical aspects. When I left her office, hearing aids in place, I said, “Here I go.” I felt like I was walking into a new experience.

One week later the hearing aids still feel like I have ear buds stuffed in my ears, which for now feels uncomfortable. But, I’ve decided to reframe my experience. As I write in Starbucks, nearly every person sitting alone is wearing ear buds—probably listening to music or a podcast. I’m one of them, except mine are hearing aids. Cool.

You might not need hearing aids, yet, but we’re all growing older. We can focus on “growing” or we can focus on “older.” I choose growing—which includes facing reality and doing what needs to be done to live life fully engaged. And to do that, I need to hear well.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Being Unreasonable

Four years ago, when my husband and I signed an eight-month lease for a beautiful downtown apartment in Saratoga Springs, our friends questioned our decision. Why are you doing this? They figured if we wanted to go to Saratoga, we could drive up and back in the same day. It’s only 70 miles each way. Sounds reasonable. The status quo usually is. However, I was looking for more than a day trip. I was looking for a life change.

My interest in a long-term lease in Saratoga arose from feeling stuck and dissatisfied with my current living environment. I had lived in the same small town and the same big house for over 30 years. I never imagined my life story all in one chapter.

Author Seth Godin writes, “The only way to get out of the spot you’re in is to do something that feels unreasonable, that’s unreasonable in the short term, that a similar person in a similar situation would say is unreasonable.” My friends had already confirmed this point. And so, I decided I was willing to be unreasonable, at least for eight months, to challenge the status quo.

And do you know what happened? I got unstuck. 

If you want to do something more worthwhile with your life, if you want to get unstuck, ask, “Am I willing to be unreasonable, a least for a while?” And then go do it.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

What do you do for fun?

Over the past 10 years that I’ve been speaking and writing about retirement, I’ve given a lot of advice on how to answer the question, “What do you do?” I’ve encouraged people to have an answer for this question before their first day of retirement. And here’s the challenge—they can’t just talk about what they’ve done. The question is in the present tense.

Something I haven’t done is to prepare people for another question—one that seems easy, but recently when I was asked, “What do you do for fun?” I couldn’t come up with an immediate answer. I was taken aback, and a little embarrassed. It was meant to be a simple question. So I’ve spent some time thinking about why it was so complex, and what I want to learn from it.

“What do I do for fun?”

I could talk about my retirement writing and speaking, and although some of it is fun, it’s also work.

My volunteer roles are meaningful, and they draw upon my strengths, but are they fun? Most of the time they’re more like work. I receive many of the benefits of work, such as belonging to a community, making a difference, etc. There is value in these benefits, but fun? Not really.

 I spend a lot of time exercising. It’s good for me and I love the benefits, but it’s not what I’d call fun. It’s discipline.

So what is fun and why is it important to know what I do for fun?

When I know what is fun for me, I’ll do it more often. I’ll find ways to combine it with meaningful ways to contribute and make a difference. For example, I love to bake and decorate cookies. I’ve made cookies for a friend’s bridal shower, cookies representing a non-profit’s logo, the number 90 for my dad’s 90th birthday celebration, and cookies with my son’s company logo, packaged as if they were a box of business cards. This is fun. 

Sitting at a high top counter at my favorite coffee shop and writing while sipping an extra hot café mocha is fun.

Creating personalized gifts and cards for people is fun.

Searching online for houses and visiting open houses is fun.

Shopping with my daughter and sister is fun.

Playing with my granddaughters is fun.

Why does it matter that you know what you do for fun? By increasing your awareness of what brings you joy and delight, you’ll invest more time and energy in doing it more often. You’ll invite more fun into your life. And more fun is fun!

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.