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?

How Post50 Freedom is Different

While the second half of life promises a sense of freedom, it is different from the freedom felt when we left our childhood homes and went out on our own. The life stage of youth revels in an unending future and is mixed with bravado. (“You can do anything you want! You can reach any dream. You are the best. You can win.)

Indeed a new spirit of aging exists along with the chance to redesign your life and promises once again, freedom. But this freedom comes with the understanding that we do have limitations.

  • The divorce hurt financially. So, no, you’re not going to own a chateau in Italy.
  • Your spouse lost interest in sailing. Do you want to single-hand that 42’ sloop?
  • The hip replacement works fine, but is it good enough for your dream of reaching the 7 Summits in Ecuador?

Despite all of this, the future holds so much promise. We’ve got experience, wisdom, skills and wishes to use up in the decades ahead of us. As we reconstruct life ahead – settle in our Geography of Place, do work we want to do – we get a block of time back.

Now the boundaries of that time can intersect with our present wisdom to give us a fresh start on living the life we want.

A different kind of freedom of our youth? Hell yes, and it should be.

I learned a lot about life and myself in those first fifty years. Don’t tell me you didn’t.

Freedom laced with wisdom is one of the most exhilarating aspects of creating a new Post50 Lifestyle.

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Anticipate a Big Breath of Abandon

When my two-year-old grandson, Liam, glimpses a horizon of water  – a canal, the ocean, a lake, a water park – he immediately wants to go there. He goes wild.

Similarly, many of us run toward the second half of life as if its mere presence grants us freedom. We have a glimmering, an inclination, a notion that somewhere ahead we’ll find something beyond our present lives. The excitement is palpable.

People speak glowingly of anticipated freedom. They’ll knock out to-do lists, travel, spend time with family and friends, paint, write a book and set their own pace.

You want to get up when you want to and choose how to

spend your days; to take the time doing the things

you want to do instead of rushing from one demand

to another; to be available for your loved ones; to

take care of yourself, for a change…

 Sounds swell. But that’s not how it plays in real life.

One imagines that most individuals don’t set out to slouch in front of the TV to watch repeats of HBO’s Game of Thrones or linger over the manual their Breville Masticating Slow Juicer, but that’s exactly what happens.

Retirees spend half of their newfound leisure time watching TV and one and 3/4 hours more than the average population on housework, food prep and the garden.

This should frighten you.

Moving through the fifty-year-old milestone is to stand at the threshold between two worlds – an old lifetime and new lifetime. I’ve felt, you’ve felt it.

But we have to do more than anticipate this freedom. What’s required is a new kind of self-direction.

So let’s break it down and begin to understand it.

There are two Types of Freedom in a Post50 Lifestyle:

What will you do? How will you be?

First, Go-After Freedoms: What Will You Do?

‘Freedom’ is a multifaceted word emerging not only in anecdotal research but in the scientific and psychological research on aging. Research in epigenetics conducted at Rutgers University confirms that our bodies and brains can regenerate some cells if we de-stress our lives.

We have also learned that older people in Blue Zones often move into the second half of their lifetimes building more freedom into their lives. They do so by focusing on particular elements of life. One is ‘removing chronic stressors.’

Just getting rid of a morning commute or an incompetent co-worker can reduce negative stress. But look harder and you’ll identify stressors than have nothing to do with work.

Tangled up in our lives are a myriad of activities squeezing hours and days out of our lives. Isn’t five years on the museum board enough? Why keep going to your giant-jerk brother’s for Christmas when you hate it?

Your Go-After Freedoms are part getting rid of anything that produces negative stress.

Then you can reuse time to create new synapses in your brain as well as activate the pleasure center.

What does the what-shall-I-do-now-Post50 you want for this block of unscheduled, uncommitted time?

Freedom to grow a ponytail, restore an old automobile, learn a new language, cultivate an organic garden, read novels, enjoy new rituals of rest (a nap in the afternoon, new energy though meditation or yoga every morning), or flatten your abs.

For sure it is these exciting Go-After Freedoms that are foremost on most Post50 individual’s minds.

But nearby is an interior experience we can’t (or shouldn’t) ignore.

Let’s face it. We’ve rearranged ourselves over the years.

We’ve built lives on a kind of fictionalized sense of self where what we aspire to be rather than who we really are looks back at us.

In Post50 Freedom, we can take back our time to create and live an interesting life, and satisfy a deep yearning to become our best self.

Our path is One in which our existence is not an accident. - Jean-Pierre Weill. From his beautiful children's book for adults, "The Well of Being."
Our path is One in which our existence is not an accident. – Jean-Pierre Weill. From his beautiful children’s book for adults, “The Well of Being.”

Second, Soul-Find Freedoms: How Will You Be?

New research regarding the biochemistry and neurology of happiness confirms that ‘happiness’ is a feeling of immense emotional and spiritual freedom – freedom to be who we are.

An image of freedom is often Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff. Perhaps it is the refusal to drive off the cliff and instead start a conversation with ourselves over the direction of our lives that can provide a greater sense of spaciousness.

Most of us need a simpler identity. Complex identities bury us and we become exhausted from the effort to sustain them, especially those that have others at the center and not us.

I don’t think identifying these freedoms“to be who you want to be” are so deeply buried into memory that one needs to write a life story to reclaim them, sit in a sweat lodge or commit to long-term therapy.

It does, however, require a conversation and truth.

Who you want to be still avails the power to change who you have been. You can find a simpler, more elemental identity truer to the template of your nature.

You can love like you have never loved before, forgive others despite your unsureness of how to do it and become ambitious for your talents. You can embrace generosity, open your heart and mind, and start giving every homeless person standing on the corner with those signs the gift of your eye contact.

You can change.

What’s really at the core of this is the idea of fiercely owning your life – a life facing the finale of time. You don’t need to wait until you’re eighty or ninety to do this.

This new-found freedom seen as a value of time returned is really more about switching the locus of control back to yourself  for your ‘self.’

Much of the work can be done in silence. The work is not in strategy but in imagination and identity. What is my truth and which parts of it may need revision? What’s possible now?

Silence is the soul’s break for freedom.  - David Whyte
Silence is the soul’s break for freedom. – David Whyte

Saddle Up, Partner

Each of has a necessary outlaw inside of us in our imaginations and memories.

What does the outlaw in you say she wants to do with Post50 Freedom?

How does the outlaw say he wants to be?

We might have to cross a bit of unknown territory to get there, but we can cultivate a gleam in our eye; stray outside predictable; make sure no one really knows what we are up to; surprise others at the same time we surprise ourselves.

Post50 we’ll be dangerous again and glad to be so.


Questions to spark your awareness about Post50 Lifestyle of Freedom:

  • How can you get new insights into the role of freedom at this time in your life?
  • What is buried or walled off a long time ago that needs to be investigated?
  • What misconceptions about this new freedom might you hold?
  • What are your curiosities about people and the world?
  • What has a busy life kept from you that you want now in your life?
  • How much freedom of movement do you want in work?
  • How much of the original person is there?

About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.
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