Summer 2014 August 30 Saturday
72 degrees this morning, Rain forecast. At least three earthquakes reported within the area we live yesterday, one a 3.2. The earthquakes seem to gradually be getting more powerful, maybe not,
I read several articles this morning that struck me as timely, one I am reprinting at the bottom of this. (I hope this is legal).
I think the reason it hit a chord with me is the recent move, our having to dispose of possessions and make choices about what to keep etc.
I have actually thought a lot on this the past several years. The importance of experiences and friends and family and the relatively importance of “things” or possessions. At some point “things” come to own and manage a person, rather than a person “owning” the possession.
I”m not including it, but the another article in the same section of the newspaper included a story about retirees who literally sell everything (including their house) and basically live as nomads. This includes retirees who buy an RV, but also includes a large proportion who live in short term rentals etc. Kind of like Jack Reacher, for those of you who read the novels by Lee Childs. (The new Jack Reacher comes out Tuesday!)
I wouldn’t want to do that. Much as I like to travel and have new experiences, I like having a “home base” where I can return and call “home”, even if it was just a room in a house that was someplace that was my permanent living area.
About 25 years ago, I had a major shift in my thinking, and it included more living in the “present” in the sense that I decided I was going to experience life as it happens, even to the point that, while I don’t look forward to some experiences, I will accept the experience and reflect on what it means, even if it is a trip to the dentist, removal of skin cancer by the dermatologist.
A few years ago, I was reading “The Kite Runner” and the book actually helped me through the surgery, which was overall minor. I think what was difficult about it was a series of painful (minor, but still painful) series of surgeries. One of the characters in the book helped me put this into perspective as I reflected on his experiences.
As I transition back to “working full-time”, I need to reflect on the quotation that hit me like a brick shortly after my employment status changed in Lakeland. I’ll repeat it here:
(Quote from ‘And the Mountains Echoed':
“Now I was free to do as I wished, but I found the freedom illusory, for what I wished for had been taken from me. They say, Find a purpose in life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize you life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind”.
I still get a chill down my back when I read this quote and think about what it meant, and what it means. The meaning has actually changed through the past nine months.
For years, all I wished for was more time. When I had it, I realized more time wasn’t necessarily what I needed.
In my case the quote is somewhat true that “Now I was free to do as I wished”. I chose to spend almost all my time looking for another job, improving my qualifications and making improvements in my skills for what i thought would quickly be a new job.
On the other hand, I was fortunate that I could have decided to “retire” (which has a lot different meaning than in the past-at least to me, in the sense that would have been productive in some way and definitely pursued an “encore career”.
As Aliene noted recently (actually last night), during the last nine months, I have read less than I did when I was working, probably 80 hours per week, although I didn’t keep track
Sometimes, this journal has a life of it’s own. My original thought today strayed and I have reached what I feel should be the maximum for one day. I”ll reflect more on this in the future.
I hope you read the article noted below and think about it. It will be well worth your time.
That’s it for now, Saturday, August 30, 2014
BUSINESS DAY | YOUR MONEY
For Some, ’Tis a Gift to Be Simple
By RON LIEBER
Last month, I spent a day in a library for the first time in over 20 years. I was there to work, but I appeared to be the only one doing so. Everyone else lolled about as the rain fell outside, helping themselves to the endless shelves of newspapers and magazines or browsing the newest fiction.
My work brings me joy. But as I looked around at the older patrons especially, I was overcome by a single emotion: jealousy. It had been too long since I’d sampled the simple but profound pleasure of losing myself in the stacks. I wanted to feel it again.
That craving stayed with me, and it helped me recognize how important some research from the June issue of The Journal of Consumer Research could be for helping many Americans find peace of mind as they contemplate their retirement savings. The lead article reported that older people often draw as much happiness from ordinary experiences — like a day in the library — as they do from extraordinary ones.
For people who have not saved enough or have broken into their savings because of lost jobs and health crises, the findings offer a glimmer of hope. If you can cover basic expenses, pursuing inexpensive, everyday things that bring comfort and satisfaction can lead to happiness equal to jetting about on international trips in your 70s and 80s.
The study’s authors, Amit Bhattacharjee and Cassie Mogilner, met when Mr. Bhattacharjee was earning his doctorate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where Ms. Mogilner is an assistant professor of marketing. When they decided to work together, they did not set out to make grand pronouncements about aging.
Instead, they were trying to help answer one of the next big questions in the emerging field of happiness studies. Already, scholars in the field have established that experiences tend to make people happier than possessions. What we do, it seems, has more potential for lasting satisfaction and memory-making than what we have. But Mr. Bhattacharjee, who is now a visiting assistant professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and Ms. Mogilner wanted to know what sort of experiences made people the most happy and why.
To find out, they conducted eight studies in which they asked participants about their recollections of, planning for or daydreaming about various happiness- making experiences. They also checked to see what sort of things their subjects were posting about on Facebook. The researchers’ definitions of ordinary and extraordinary experiences, when they prompted people to discuss one or the other, were simple and focused on frequency; ordinary experiences happen often and occur in the course of everyday life while extraordinary ones are much more rare.
Extraordinary experiences bring great joy throughout life. No surprise there. But what the pair found again and again was that the older people got, the more happiness ordinary experiences delivered. In fact, the happiness-making potential of everyday pursuits eventually grows equal to that of ones that are rarer.
For Mr. Bhattacharjee, 32, the findings helped clarify a few things about his own parents. He had been attracted to research on moral beliefs and well-being in part because of his upbringing in a Bengali-speaking household of Indian immigrants. “My whole life, I felt like I was trying to sort out these competing cultural standards,” he said. “What is good? What is desirable? There are very different sorts of standards that people apply.”
When his younger brother started college, the two siblings plied their empty- nester parents with restaurant gift cards and theater tickets so they could revel in their freedom from full-time parenting duties. “They just had zero interest,” he recalled. “They really relish the ordinary. At some point, I stopped fighting it. And once I started working on this stuff, it helped crystallize for me that their conception of what is valuable is different.”
Different from what a young person might have expected, at least. His parents were never much for the grand journey or the statement vehicle. “I tell people I’ve been buying a new Mercedes and driving it off a cliff each year for 10 or 15 years,” said Mr. Bhattacharjee’s father, Arun, of his and his wife’s efforts to pay for their sons’ higher education.
Now that Arun Bhattacharjee, 73, is more than half a decade into retirement, he devotes his days to reading the newspaper and books and regular strolls near the family home in Audubon, Pa. “I walk in the neighborhood around the block a few times,” he said. “Everybody knows me. Rain or shine.”
His wife, Ratna, 63, still works as an engineer. She and Arun go to India about once a year to see her mother. The family of four did head to Las Vegas for a vacation recently. “I have not lost interest in those kinds of things,” Arun Bhattacharjee said. “But I don’t need that sort of thing all of the time to give me pleasure. I can get it from simple things.”
Why might that be? Mr. Bhattacharjee and Ms. Mogilner explored some of the factors besides frequency that separate ordinary and extraordinary experiences and seized on one in particular: the tendency for extraordinary experiences to be self-defining in some way.
One way to think about this is to consider the various adventures younger people pursue to find themselves. “That sort of exploration to see what fits and feels like you may be the process by which you can start to figure out what sort of ordinary life to build,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said.
Once you know yourself, the deliberate pursuit of more ordinary things can then deliver that same level of happiness. It doesn’t hurt, either, that you may appreciate the ordinary much more once you’re more aware of the decreasing number of years you have left to enjoy it.
Older people are not set in their ways, nor should they want to be, and it would be a mistake to think we know ourselves well enough to be certain of what will give us the most satisfaction when we’re older. Retirement is just the sort of transition point that causes many people to seek new adventures and try on new ways of being in the world. No one should deny themselves that if they can afford it.
But plenty of people won’t have the money to go to faraway places or pay to jump out of airplanes. Low-cost extraordinary experiences may well be nearby, but there ought to be much comfort in the evidence that everyday things that cost little or nothing can deliver the same amount of joy. A garden. The elaborate meal that emerges from it and the spare time to invent the recipes. A return to a neglected musical instrument. All-you-can-consume subscriptions to Netflix and Spotify, with
watchlists and playlists that stretch on for years.
As for me, I’m merely middle-aged. But I’m almost positive that the first thing on my retirement wish list will be a brand-new library card.
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