Five Things People Who Love Their Post50 Lives Don’t Do


"There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that." From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
“There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.” From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

One day you think: Oh, here is the rest of my life. It’s finally arrived.

The map of how you got here may be in front of you, but what to do now? No map for that.

Still we do figure it out.

Not all of us do it well. At least, not every time.

 I solved life after college graduation rather fine. But post-divorce invoked a shaky time that curled my toes and wreaked havoc on providing for my daughter in a fitting way. (My mom sent money.)

 What followed was a long stretch of eight years as a single working mother who layered up a strong sense of self and confidence. I carried that forward.

 The first year of my second marriage created an interesting juxtaposition. How much could (or would) I compromise but still be in charge of me and my life?

My eleven-year-old daughter and I decorated her bedroom with Marimekko sheets and matching wallpaper. But I kept a suitcase with a stash of cash for a quick get-away for us inside my new closet.

 Symbolic of questioning marriage survival, yes, but also a sign of my wobbly sureness. ‘Could I somehow have misjudged this man who seemed so solid in promise-keeping and honesty?’ I hadn’t.

But it was an uncertain year.

A pre-planned midlife crisis resulted in professional choices to season my skills and buoy my finances to a higher level than I dreamed possible. But when the economy stumbled, so did I. 

Time to reinvent? Oh please. I ran away.

Sailing away for six months was a grand and valuable adventure. I only came back because I ran out of money. And because my husband hadn’t signed up for a marriage where he pinpointed his wife’s whereabouts by latitude and longitude.

 In my late fifties, I wandered too long in and out of ideas that hovered over the transition into a third life.

No one should have to do that. 

The conclusion was that I care deeply that I do a good job in all endeavors – especially this one of living the last third of life. I made a map.

Slipping into new shoes, I feel steady and rock-solid on this path. 

Just like other times.

I may not have known that the spots of figuring out what’s-next-for-my-life would be so prevalent, but I know it now.

Your story has different twists and turns.

And as much as each of us tries to swerve and miss the place of no map, we still end up here.

Over and over again. Continue reading

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Discover The Wild Heart of Your Life: Sleep Under a Railroad Trestle.

From stormy archipelagos, I brought my windy accordion, waves of crazy rain, the habitual slowness of natural things: they made up my wild heart. - Pablo Neruda
From stormy archipelagos, I brought my windy accordion, waves of crazy rain, the habitual slowness of natural things: they made up my wild heart. – Pablo Neruda

My best professor in graduate school at the University of Georgia was an alcoholic. He rarely showed up for class; office hours became a joke.

But when he did turn up, disheveled and bleary eyed, it was ‘game on’ for me and my fellow doctoral candidates.

We were going to get another blistering. He would raise his voice and degrade us. We’d cower. He’d tell us again and again how we were breaking his heart with our respectful, compliant lives.

We couldn’t wait.

Other profs in the department of Counseling and Human Behavior offered rigorous coursework in counseling methods and techniques, challenging practicums and thesis advisement.

This guy cared less about all that. His concern was about us living our unimaginative, tedious lives. It irked him to no end.

“How in the hell can you help others live their best lives

when you’re miserably failing at your own?”

“Don’t tell me you’re living a great life or even trying. . . because you are not. 

In fact, you are the most boring, pathetic group of students I’ve seen in a long time.”

We loved him. Partly because no one else in the department seemed to care how we were crafting our lives. But most of all, because his plea to “give life more” was so easily overlooked in our busy, well-constructed, high-achieving lives. Continue reading

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Betting on a Long Life of Productivity and Vitality? Don’t Put Money on It.

Sunday Afternoon in Plaza de San Sebastian, Cuenca, Ecuador
Sunday Afternoon in Plaza de San Sebastian, Cuenca, Ecuador

 I’m going to die.  You’re going to die, too.

Yes, we are living longer than ever. But we are not immortal.

With advances in science and medicine, some of us will live what can seem like another lifetime. I’m joyful about the opportunity.

Maybe, you are too.

To design a Post50 life that includes engagement in work until we are 85 or beyond and consume new-found freedom to do what we want has rousing, chirpy and strong appeal.

But a simple truth we may resist (myself included) is that many of us will not live our bonus years with health and vitality.

Nothing chirpy about that.

As pioneers in this brand new world of living long and productively, our gratitude is best paid to live well – for ourselves and as role models for future generations.

But we can’t just yahoo about an extra thirty years thinking we’ll have it all – health, vitality, creativity and loved ones. The majority of us won’t even come close to that kind of life.

So let’s be smart, realistic and open to what could befall us.

As we craft a Post50 life, each fact and factoid, possibility and challenge are just as essential in our planning as our hopes and dreams.

That’s How Long I Want to Live -75 Years Continue reading

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Letting Go of An Identity That Served You Well: Five Strategies


2014-09-15 18.26.23On a recent visit my best friend for fifty-one years placed three envelopes beside my morning coffee.

“I kept these for you,” Janice said.

Years ago phone calls were expensive for the volume of talking we wanted. We corresponded with letters – “notes to ourselves about our lives and ourselves.”

In retrospect the hours I carved out to write Janice – to reflect and contemplate decisions on the threshold of passages, challenging times, disappointments and joys – were the bread and butter of my self-development.

The letters in front of me were ones I wrote during the month following of my daughter’s birth, April 12, 1970. I was twenty-five, married for five years, had lived in five places in three years (following the career of my husband) and was an easily employed, happy teacher wherever we unloaded the U-Haul.

I looked at the letters written over 40 years ago and hesitated. I mean this is a damn long time ago and I recall an early adulthood route overloaded with societal markers and expectations I was beginning to question.

I read them.

The hour-by-hour description of labor and birth was in the first letter. The next two (both eight pages double-sided) described sleep-deprived days full of the wonder and practicalities of motherhood.

Then, there it was. Right there after making the choice between Pampers and a diaper service, were my most personal struggles. Concerns about the mother I would become, the good wife I was struggling to be and the blank space of my ‘self’ leaning in on me.

Looking back from a long distance I seemed like a young tree looking for sunlight. I was pretty soft and bendy in the identity department. I was trying to please a lot of people.

“This is me?” queried my today self.

Well, yes I wrote the letters, but the writer did not resemble much of who I am now except she did seem nice. I am nice.

In the end I did claim that woman writing at her kitchen table wearing bell-bottoms in the fetching house in the monied part of Akron, Ohio with the poodle, the entrepreneurial husband putting in his 10,000 hours headed to success and the beautiful baby girl.

I claim her not as ‘me,’ but as one of many selves I’ve been in life.

Five years later I would trade this self in for a new, improved one. (And, a less financially secure one.)

Trading selves is what we do as we grow up and change. Continue reading

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Stay in Touch: Did You Make Enough Friends to Last a Lifetime?

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”  “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” — E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)
“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
— E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)

Welcome back to Part 5/5 on crafting a remarkable Post50 Life. We explored Geography  of Place, Freedom and Career Arc Extension. Today we focus on Personal Intimacy & Health to reveal that a strong social architecture is the nucleus of a long, productive and healthy life.

“So,” I say to my husband as we enjoy sunset on the terrace of our newly constructed Panhandle dream home.

After two months in our chosen and well-loved ‘Geography of Place,’ we can count using one index finger the number of people we can call ‘friend’ – our architect.

“How many friends have you made this week?” I inquire.

The question lacks sweetness. We’d moved to a place where we knew no one. We needed friends and finding them was more effort than we’d remembered.

Soon we’d be on a corner with a sign, “Will you be our friend?” or scouting the produce section of Piggly Wiggly for foodies to be dinner guests.

Just because I’m more extroverted doesn’t mean my husband is off the hook. “Find some friends,” I say. “You need to help.”

Cigars, Scotch and a local bar was his strategy followed by golf, more Scotch and cigars.

Today my husband has more friends than I do.

Not ‘best’ friends. Not people you are tight with or give bear hugs to.

More like fist-bump people. Continue reading

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Expand That Career Arc! The Wonderful Work of Odyssey.

2014-02-01 15.05.52-2Welcome back to Part 4/5 on crafting a remarkable Post50 Life. We explored Geography of Place and Freedom. Today, it’s about being productive in our longevity. We move on to Career Arc Extension, the third of the Four Elements of Post50 Lifestyle.

The purpose of a Post50 odyssey is to discover what the next stage of our life will hold – to find out what’s ahead. The journey is a series of experiences that gives us knowledge and understanding.

At the threshold of finding ‘future work’ for the last third of life, expect to feel dizzy.

  • Should I continue my current profession? (Career success or ‘loving our work’ often makes this seem a good idea when it’s not.)
  • Should I begin to learn skills for a different  industry?
  • Do I have time to build a new career?
  • Why not be content with past career success and become a volunteer?

With longevity available, most of us are set to do some kind of ‘work’ through our 70s and 80s.

Spike Lee said, “As an artist you have to want longevity because longevity allows you to do your work.”

To label myself an ‘artist’ always seemed inappropriate and far-fetched. Maybe you’ve felt this way.

I don’t paint or sculpt. I don’t ballet or write songs. Actually I require professional help just choosing fabric for throw pillows.

But as I ended my transition, I changed my mind. I am an artist.

No higher artistic expression exists than creating a life.

I own my first fifty years and dare myself to crave more and more from my time left. I marvel at my stops and starts, successes and failures, good fortune and bad luck. I am an illustrator and designer who collects stories of my past merging them into a collage of pictures of a future – my future.

I create a life – mine.

It’s the same for all of us. The craft and design of your Post50 life – where a new working identity is vital – is your ‘art.’

Marvelous and a bit heady, isn’t it, to be an artist? We could do wild things with our lives.

Let’s temper that for now.

A carefree focus on ‘art’ can impoverish future wellbeing. And in my mind, the phrase ‘starving artist’ has no charm. Continue reading

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Be Dangerous Again: A Renaissance for You in Post50 Freedom

Within us, beneath the noise is the source and core of everything.
Within us, beneath the noise is the source and core of everything.

Welcome back to Part 3/5 on crafting a remarkable Post50 Life. We explored Geography of Place last time and today, it’s all about getting our time back. We move on to Freedom, the second of the Four Elements of Post50 Lifestyle.

Retirement isn’t being retired. It’s already retired. You know that by now, right?

The old idea of “retirement”—a word that means withdrawal, describing a time when people gave up productive employment and shrank their activities—was a short-lived historical abnormality lasting approximately 70 years.

In 1935 a kind of pragmatic judgment using the favorable actuarial age of 65 became the basis on which this age was used for retirement under Social Security.

It’s over.

Poised to live longer in better health than ever before individuals are extending their working lives, often with new careers, phased retirement, entrepreneurial ventures, and volunteer service.

‘Un’ is a prefix freely used in English to form verbs expressing a reversal of some action or state. Unleash this negative force and we have wonderful words such as undressed, unbeloved, unforgettable and undone.

Today, we’ve uncorked the word ‘unretirement’ to explain this seismic change now in its early stages. (The word,’unretirement,’ first used in 1966, is now thriving.)

The ‘unretirement’ you’ll choose is not life as you know it.

You can look forward to a newfound sense of freedom- a freedom that’s been missing from your getting-educated-child-raising-finding-time-for-sex-career-consuming life.

Many smart people squander and misuse this parcel of time – often decades of it. Some people volunteer it away.

Will you be one of them? Continue reading

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Craft the Post50 Life You Want: Where You Live Could Be The Most Important Decison of Your Life

People who live inland are not as happy as people who live near water, according to research in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. You may or may not agree.
People who live inland are not as happy as people who live near water, according to research in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. You may or may not agree.

Welcome back to Part 2/5 on crafting a remarkable Post50 Life. The second of this series is about the Geography of Place, the first of the Four Elements of Post50 Lifestyle.Post50 Lifestyle Design ElementsPost50 Lifestyle Design Elements

 “You can take me anywhere you want to take me. But get me out of Atlanta.”

I can’t recall a time my amenable husband, Herb, dug in so much. But he was adamant that after his retirement – an end to a 34-year career as a Delta pilot based in Atlanta – we would live in a different place.

Turns out our move to the Gulf Coast still contributes a ‘wow’ to our Post50 lifestyle. But finding our geography of place wasn’t easy and Herb’s lead time of ten years was a boon since the scouting and winnowing of places took a whopping 71/2.

Was Atlanta a bad place for us? Definitely not.

But are we truly happier where we live now than if we had stayed? Unquestionably, yes.

Choosing a spouse and choosing a career are important life decisions—but even more predictive of our all-round personal happiness is our choice of living location, argues Richard Florida, author of Who’s My City: How the Creative Economy is Making Were You Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life.

At this turning point in life, a growing number of us have the opportunity to choose a place that truly fits our needs.

‘Geography of Place’ -the place you choose to live as you begin your third act of life – is a high-stakes decision and most of us are not prepared to make the right choice.

Where in the world do we begin to pick a place good for a possible second career that affords us a fulfilling and vibrant life?

Ask most people how they got to the place they live now, they’ll say they just ended up there.

How did you end up where you are anyway?

Intersection of Geography and Happiness

In his captivating best-seller Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert writes that “most of us make at least three important decisions in our lives: where to live, what to do and with whom to do it.”

But Gilbert’s book mostly focuses on the “what” and the “who.”

That happiness researchers like Gilbert mainly ignored the “where” inspired Richard Florida’s partnering with Gallup to conduct a major US study that shows the overwhelming importance of place to happiness. (There is also a related European version conducted by Robert Manchin of Gallup Europe.)

The research confirms that “Place” forms the third leg in the triangle of wellbeing, alongside of personal relationships and our work. Continue reading

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Midlife Plan: Start Over with Four Elements of Post50 Lifestyle

Gate sign in Lakes District of England.
Gate sign in Lakes District of England.

After two decades of childhood and three of decades of adulthood you’d think we’d have it all figured out. We’ve adjusted, re-adjusted, modified, adapted and tweaked ourselves from infancy to adolescence through young adulthood past the age of innocence only to smack right into midlife.

Managing life transitions? We got it down.

Unfortunately that kind of confidence and bravado can get you into trouble.

Ahead lies a transition never before awarded a generation or attempted. With a bonus of thirty plus years of living after the age of 65, we are privileged to create a new life cycle.

But crafting a new stage of life is not as easy as slipping into one that’s been around.

What is for certain is that advancing toward us in midlife is one of those delicious ‘defining moments’ – one we can choose to use or not to use.

Ted talker, Meg Joy, a clinical psychologist, insists for her twenty-something audience that 80% of life’s defining moments happen before 35. This is ridiculous.

Have you had a happening or two since your mid-thirties that got you where you are now? Any big damn event helped shape you in your 40s or 50s? (Marriage? A baby? Divorce? Love? Heartbreak? Lottery? Career setback? Dad died?)

No one decade defines us.

With high expectations and time not on our side, we should aim to make this upcoming demarcation – from mid-life to late adulthood- one of unparalleled significance.

Other defining moments of your life slipped up on you to catch you unaware or unprepared. Still, you made it through with time enough to savor or recover.

This one’s different.

You will either use this one to create the life you want to live until it’s over – literally game over.

Or you’ll ignore it. And, likely wish you hadn’t. Continue reading

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How to Design a Post50 Life That Matters : New, Inventive Approach Solves Problem

Judi Dench on Retire

It seems Judi Dench bristles at the thought of slowing down.

Obviously Dench tells herself something about the future that’s very different from the  conventional narrative of classic retirement.

Dame Judi Dench, renown Oscar-winning film and stage actor.
Dame Judi Dench, renown Oscar-winning film and stage actor.

Hurrah for her, as well as a growing number of individuals who are not going to be defined by an outdated message of “slow down, your work is done and do get out of the way for the young.”

Classic retirement, lacking a factual basis and appropriateness, is in extreme flux and individuals no longer see this as a solid truth to define behavior.

According to USA Today, the latest buzzwords for Baby Boomers are “reinvent,” “reimagine,” “encore” – anything that suggests a second chance or a new chapter.

Continue reading

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