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.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Choose the Bigger Life

Gretchen Rubin writes in her book Outer Order—Inner Calm, “When trying to make a tough choice, challenge yourself: ‘Choose the bigger life.’”
I kept this quote in mind while vacationing in Iceland this past week. The first stop on our tour was Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind. As Dave and I approached it, he said, “Are you going to go behind it?” Without hesitation I said, “Yes.” From the backside I experienced the exhilaration of water falling 65 meters over an old sea cliff. Even though the climb was more challenging than I expected, I’m glad I chose the bigger life. 

Another stop on our itinerary was hiking into a glacial ice cave. I was expecting a beautiful walk surrounded by blue ice and stalactites and stalagmites. Maybe something like you’d see in Disney’s Frozen movie. Instead, because of the lava particles, the glacier was black. When our guide showed us how to strap ice cleats to our hiking boots I knew this was not going to be what I expected. Still, I pulled on the cleats and made my way into the cave. I tasted 3,000-year-old ice. Cool. Well, cold. I chose the bigger life. 

Philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I love a broad margin to my life.” I like to imagine a sheet of lined paper with wide margins—space to write my bigger life.

The late Maya Angelo reminds us, "Because of the routines we follow, we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure." Similarly, Robin Sharma, best-selling author and leadership expert, says, “Don’t live the same day for 75 years and call it a life.”

Instead, choose the bigger life.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Return to What You Know

My mom taught me to sew when I was in the fifth grade. And for the next 30 years, I sewed something almost every day. During that time I had a baby quilt business and also designed and manufactured my own line of children’s clothing. Most days you’d find me walking around the house wearing a tape measure as if it were a necklace. 

These days I don’t sew very often, so yesterday when I made new cushion covers for a wicker chair, I noticed how good it felt to have a tape measure around my neck.  I sensed I was returning to a familiar activity that brings great satisfaction. I was rediscovering the simple pleasure of sewing.

Retirement is a perfect time to learn new skills and explore different interests and hobbies. And it’s also a time to return to what you know—especially if you feel like everything has changed. This was the case for Ruth Reichl, former Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine, a role she held for 10 years until the magazine came to an abrupt closing in 2009.

In her book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Save My Life, Reichl writes, “My kitchen year started in time of trouble, but it taught me a great deal. When I went back to cooking I rediscovered simple pleasures, and as I began to appreciate the world around me, I learned that the secret to life is finding joy in ordinary things.”

As you work to create a meaningful retirement, remember what used to bring joy and satisfaction. Then go do more of that.

Copyright 2019. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.