Why you should start a blog in retirement: Is there more to life than being entertained?

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It seems that I often have too much to do with too little time to do it in. This is more the case for me now that I am not working and have more time than ever.

Paradoxically, when I was working more than 60 hours a week, I seemed to have time to do everything. It came down to the built-in efficiencies that I had to come up with out of necessity. This kept me functioning in the world-as-it-is but gave me precious little time to come up with ways to create the world-as-it-might-be. The pace of modern life only allowed me to keep my head above water.

Whether we retire when we want to or when our health or finances dictate that we have to, there is an adjustment period. Our first inclination is to establish a routine that gets us out of the house and among others. Initially this may be enough. But it is very easy to fall into what I call the “entertainment trap” after a while — TV, movies, celebrity gossip, gaming — distractions which can appear to be innocuous initially but which take us away from ourselves eventually. This ultimately is very unfulfilling. We take but do not give.

To get myself out of this trap I started blogging. I felt that my background in mental health might enable me to give people a little guidance on how to move forward in their lives. I had no idea how this effort might change me.

When you work in any field you become an expert. This is true whether you work as a clerk, a doctor, a social worker or a mechanic. You know the ins and outs of what you do and often you don’t think about it too much. Not many people remain engaged and interested in what they do for a living. Your work becomes routine. You put one foot in front of the other and make assumptions along the way based on past experience.

So when you suddenly are freed from the constraints of a job’s structure you are able to look back and see all the things you were too busy to mentally digest in your daily experience. You are given a fresh perspective.

What you did and how it formed you is valuable. What can keep you busy now is not the mundane details of maintaining yourself in the work and social order of things but, instead, giving others the opportunity to learn from you, especially younger people. In a culture in which values and mores are changing rapidly those who are just starting out need an anchor. You can provide it.

Blogging is a way to find out what you really know and what you may have done differently given more time to step away and gain perspective. Others can benefit from your experience. Now is the time to show the way.

Practicing nostalgia: Looking back to look forward

Albany, NY nostalgia

Nostalgia is an interesting phenomenon. It is a force for going back into our past and pulling out evocative remnants of our memories. In life, we forget as much as we remember, however it’s what we remember that forms us and helps us to make sense of the world.

At a certain age nostalgia takes over. This usually happens when we are less active in the world and are turning inward. Circumstances often dictate this. We are taking time off from life to look backward instead of into the future. We are looking for clues to who and what we have become.

If you have had a long illness, a long vacation, an extended unemployment, a retirement, the death of someone close to you or anything that has taken you out of what you believe to be the normal imperceptible progression of life, then nostalgia can be your enemy or your friend.

Most dramatic life changes happen suddenly and involve a loss of some kind. The past comes rushing in to fill the gap and this experience can be very overwhelming. It is as though we are alone in a foreign land with no direction. To find our way back to ourselves and to the familiar streets of our psyche seems impossible.

This is reason enough to make forays into the foreign territory of nostalgia every once in a while especially when we are most comfortable with our lives: go back to the old neighborhood; sit in front of our childhood home; look at photographs of those who have passed; listen to music that helped form us; reread a book that changed our thinking forever; look up a friend that we haven’t seen in decades; get re-involved in a hobby or activity that we once enjoyed; or revisit places that inspired us at one time.

Nostalgia becomes the powerful force we turn to in order to redefine ourselves in light of our past. The light is bright and constant and there to help us make meaning out of the seeming chaos of those things we often have no control over. With a steady dose of nostalgia we become less fearful of the sudden curveballs that life inevitably throws us.

When we know how we survived, and even thrived, in the past we are more confident that we can do this now and in the future. We meet life on our own terms.

We simply look back to look forward.