Archive for July 29, 2016

How to Develop True Friendships in Retirement

women-enjoying-retirement_1098-1252This is my first article that was shared on Sixty and Me. I’m away at the cottage this week, so I thought I would share it here with you today.
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I’ve moved to a new city and I don’t know anyone. Like many older women, I left my comfort zone to be near my family. When I say I didn’t know anyone in my new city, I mean I missed people with whom I shared history and a comfortable sense of belonging.

There were lots of people in my new community whose names I soon remembered. We’d greet one another, chat about the weather, then go our separate ways until the next time we said hello.

How to Change Chance Encounters Into True Friendships

When we relocate after retirement we have no workplace or young children to provide ready-made relationships. We have to invent new ways of creating community.

Here are some quick ideas based on my own personal experience.

Find groups that share your interests. This is where you’ll meet like-minded people.

Pick a favorite charity and volunteer. Working together eventually leads to belonging.

Look for a church that provides community. Join their potlucks and social events. Over time, you’ll develop a sense of belonging.

Get a dog, if you like them. People will stop and talk to your dog. Other dog owners are natural candidates for friendship.

Finally, host your own “new to the neighborhood party.” Drop invitations into mailboxes and invite everyone over for wine and cheese.

In order to do these things however, you need to make some changes.

Change Your Mindset to Match a New Lifestyle

Before I moved, I had several different networks. On a personal level, I socialized with neighbors, professional colleagues and extended family. When my son was younger, his friends and activities brought other long-term relationships into my life. Moving in your sixties requires a whole new approach.

Ignore Other People’s Expectations

In your old life, people had a fixed image of who you were. In your new life you have an opportunity to be whoever you really are. Now that you’ve moved, you can find your authentic self, stripped of others’ expectations.

Here’s where you have some homework to do. Before you make these new friendships, you need to know yourself. What activities and topics interest you? What bores you or makes you feel awkward and ineffective?

Reflect on a friendship you valued. Allow yourself to feel what it was like to be in that person’s presence. This is the feeling you’re looking for when you meet new people. On the other hand, you might want to do this same exercise to avoid unhealthy relationships by remembering the feel of toxic persons in your past.

Recognize Loneliness as Your Friend

Can you allow yourself to welcome the feeling of loneliness? It’s your body’s signal that something needs to change. This visceral feeling can guide you to a whole new way of being. It helps you find a way that’s authentic and just right for making new friends.

Rushing to numb the feeling of loneliness can only lead to putting on another mask and distancing yourself from the authentic people in your new community. Now’s your chance. You’re with new people who have no pre-conceived notions about you. Embrace the uneasy, queasy feeling of loneliness and let it take you to a whole different way of being authentic in your new world.

Identifying Your Mask

Being authentic means dropping your “masks.” Let go of those acts you put on in order to make yourself likable and socially acceptable. When you’re feeling anxious and depressed, do you cover up your real self with a big smile and an upbeat manner? This coping tactic is what Dr. Margaret Rutherford calls Perfectly Hidden Depression. (You can watch her video here on Sixty and Me.)

Dropping Our Masks

Develop an attitude of compassion for yourself when it comes to meeting others. Like a loving parent tell yourself, “I know this is hard for you. Just do your best. If you don’t come across as smooth and sophisticated, that’s okay. You’re still a good person and people will get to know something of the real you.”

You don’t have to reveal everything. Being real does not mean telling everyone everything about yourself. Relationships are built in small steps. Be honest, but know that friendships are formed over time.

In moving to a new life, embrace loneliness as your guide to authenticity and a whole new way of being in the world. Drop your mask. Be real. Enjoy the freedom to start fresh with people who have no preconceived image of who you are.

What are your masks? Do you find yourself in a new community needing to make friends? How have you turned acquaintances into true friendships in retirement?

Bad News

chest-xray-1526779A frightening diagnosis

It’s been a week of disbelief, anger, sadness – and finally – acceptance of the fact that I‘ve been diagnosed with COPD. When a chest cold refused to completely leave my tired lungs, I went to see my family doctor. Next came respiratory tests. To my shock and horror all that blowing into a tube indicated I had Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Not only is it “chronic,” it’s a “disease” with a harsh and ugly name, starting with “chronic” and ending with “disease.” There’s nothing euphemistic there, nothing to soften the blow.

What the experts say

COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is characterized by a loss of lung function over time.(2) Primarily a disease of current and former smokers, COPD affects nearly 12 million Americans.(3)  Unlike asthma, COPD is associated with a cascade of decline that leads to a diminished quality of life over time.(6) “Millions of people live with COPD for years, so their inability to do the things they enjoy because they simply can’t breathe is devastating,” said the study’s lead author,

Pride goeth before the fall

I’ve been feeling pretty cheeky about my good health lately: no aches and pains, no arthritis or problems mounting my bicycle. I’ve done all the right things, I congratulated myself. There’s no need to succumb to old age and stiffness of the joints if you keep on moving, stretch your joints and do your cardio. Then – the kick in the pants.

How could this be happening to me?

Breathing has always been very important to me. From the age of 30 I’ve been a practitioner of yoga. Pranayama, breathing exercises, have been part of my life. I stopped smoking almost 50 years ago. And now, the medical profession tells me there’s new research indicating that smoking a pack a day, no matter how long ago, can still result in lung disease.

The fight or flight response

After a restless night, I waken with my whole body in a state of tension. For our cave ancestors, the body’s response to fear (running or fighting) worked just fine. It’s totally wrong for me. I need to reduce my stress level and find a relaxation response if I’m going to maintain the healthiest body possible. You can imagine how hard it is to maintain the emotional calm necessary for healing at a time like this.

How I plan to manage this shocking news

I figure my best chance is to maintain the highest level of health I can manage. Maybe if I lose weight, increase my cardio workouts and step up my yoga practice, I’ll stay healthier longer.

What would you do in my situation?

Please leave your comments.

P.S Next week, I’m sharing my first post for Sixty and Me here on the blog. Nothing new to report, I’m heading to cottage country until August 10. More later.

Blogging for Sixty and Me

Have you noticed I’m a guest blogger for the website “Sixty and Me?” I’m really happy about this. Since you’re reading my post, you probably know I’ve been writing on my “Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life” page about the experience of growing old, downsizing, moving to a smaller place, staying fit and taking advantage of this stage in our lives when we have more discretionary time than ever before. It’s a natural for me to sister with Margaret Manning’s practical advice on everything from eye makeup to world affairs. Hers is a website for active, intelligent older women. When she asked me to submit some ideas, I was thrilled.

Image by Sixty and Me

Image by Sixty and Me

Margaret has been wonderfully encouraging, sending me careful guidance in writing for her blog, As a beginning blogger, I’ve learned so much from her instructions on how to write reader-friendly articles. Look for a change in my own style! Margaret’s blogs are in short paragraphs with headings in bold print. Her approach makes it easy to scan an article, decide whether it’s something of interest and either set it aside or learn from it.

I’ve always written in longer paragraphs with no bold headings. I realize this can be off-putting.

Look for easy-to-read posts in future publications on my website.

Thanks, Margaret, for the lessons in better communication.

You can find my Sixty and Me article here.

What Happened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Marriage?

TouristElizabeth Gilbert is the author of one of my favourite books, Eat, Pray, Love, her story of leaving her “perfect” first marriage to seek personal happiness.

Gilbert dares to leave her marriage in order to travel in search of personal happiness. Later, in spite of her intention to remain single, she falls hopelessly in love and marries Felipe from Brazil. Theirs is an ideal partnership. Elizabeth is happy at last.

For those of us who shared her story, lived her struggle and her eventual joy, the news of separation comes as a shock. Theirs seemed to be a rock solid marriage. They’d been together for 12 years.

Of course, we all wonder what happened to shatter their love story. Gilbert asks her fans to respect her need for privacy. This is not something I’m writing about, she says. This is something I’m living. I expect both she and Felipe are exhausted and drained by this end to their relationship, whatever happened.

This brings me to my own situation where people sometimes wonder why I left my marriage after 55 years. What happened? they want to know. What happened? Well, it’s very complex. It’s so complex that each week I’m still having new insights and awareness into “what happened.”

For me, it’s surprising that so many couples last so long: that they go through different life stages, still sharing enough of the same interests and enjoying one another’s company after 50 years.

I’m beginning to think I may be typical of a growing number of women who find themselves living with a partner with whom they no longer share interests and priorities. When my husband and I moved into the bungalow together, besides being utterly exhausted from moving, we wanted very different things. He finds satisfaction in puttering around the house, gardening and fixing things. I want time to write my blogs and my new memoir. I hunger for good movies, plays, art and like-minded company. Being together all day, every day turned out to be deadly.

The new life just wasn’t working. At last, I knew I’d get some terrible disease, become demented or alcoholic – or succumb to all three – if I didn’t move out and live on my own.

Who knows what happened in Elizabeth Gilbert’s life. Certainly not I. Nobody can say what happens in another person’s life. We’re too complicated as humans. It’s like the story of the blind men feeling the different parts of the elephant and then describing what an elephant is. Each of us has a different piece of the whole.

Me and My E-Bike

 

IMG_6490My sporty white bicycle has arrived. Made in Spain, shipped to Vancouver, ordered online to be delivered to a dealer in Kingston, my bike is part of a growing international trend.

No longer are we restricted to locally produced items. We have the whole world to choose from. The local dealer received it, put it together and made sure it was properly adjusted for me. I’m feeling a part of the modern world.

I’m also excited about being part of a new trend. I’m willing to bet that in five years our roads and paths will be filled with older people on power-assisted bikes.

Here’s my story.

On a sunny late June morning I arrived at the dealer’s shop in a nearby plaza driving my Honda Civic. I was hoping my new bike would fit in the hatchback. I folded down the back seats and moved my granddaughter’s car seat.

Jay, the tall, thin dealer, greeted me and started going through a pile of instruction books about my new purchase. I wasn’t very interested. I wanted to get on with riding my new bike.

Jay wheeled it to the door, mounted it and began riding around the large parking lot.

“Now it’s your turn,” he said, standing the bike next to me. I mounted and wobbled about the open space. The seat felt a bit high, but I could manage it. I know I always like my seat too low, in better contact with the ground. From the point of view of efficient pedaling, higher is better. I decided to allow the higher seat. Between us, we bullied the resistant bike into the back of my Honda.

Now the fun could began. For my first outing on the bike, son Frank put my new bike on the roof of his station wagon along with his family’s bikes. We headed for a local conservation area with bicycle trails. Runners, families with strollers and other cyclists were all there, sharing the trails. Bright yellow posts formed a gate through which we passed to join the trails. Entering the dirt and gravel trails, it’s all downhill which means, of course, that returning to the car will be all uphill.

My E-Bike can be pedaled as an ordinary bicycle with no power assist – or – I can engage the lithium battery by pressing a button on the display that sits on my handlebars. Downhill was unexceptional, except for the fact that I was actually riding a bike in my old age. Then a wonderful thing happened. It was time to turn around and head back to the car. That meant pedaling uphill. Could I make it? Would this new fangled bike make it possible for me to climb hills without getting exhausted?

It’s at this point that a wonderful thing happened. I was just beginning the incline when I heard a whirr. The motor had engaged. From then on, gracefully and with dignity suited to my advanced years, I pedaled gently all the way uphill.

It was as if I was riding on the flat. Without any effort, I peddled serenely and in dignified fashion right up the hills. The battery power seemed to have a connection to my brain. Actually, I suppose its connection was to my pedals, gauging the effort I was making. I sailed along all the way back through the bright yellow gate to the car. I dismounted and looked behind to where I’d come from.

Where were the others? There was no sign of my family. I waited by the car … and waited…and waited. Ten minutes later they turned up. These strong young cyclists were finally ending their uphill stretch.

I sing in praise of this wonderful invention that makes it possible for someone like me, someone whose spirit’s willing, but whose body just cannot do it, to still enjoy the thrill and independence of cycling.

I have a premonition. Five years from now we’ll see electric assist bikes with older men and women riding them on roads and paths everywhere. This is just the start.