Because getting old just wasn’t enough of a challenge…

Accepting the fact that at a certain time in your life it becomes clear that the world’s focus is not on your generation, but the generations behind you, itself gives you pause. The older generation before you, has likely passed on, leaving the “senior” in you to fend for itself in a world that does not consider the challenges you face among the most pressing. Those challenges include downsizing, retiring, working, losing a partner, to name a few. Then along comes a pandemic in the form of the COVID-corona-Whuhan-China-callitwhatyouwish virus. For some, that Southern winter refuge you fled to, to shield you from northern winters, is the source of an unfathomable chasm that with quarantines and travel suspension, prevents you from visits with family and children–something you took quite for granted when you moved South.

What are some challenges and choices facing the 60+ generation? For starters, downsizing–managing a large home, possibly the “family home,” which was not too difficult with one or two full time jobs, and a houseful of children, but sitting in that same house now, possibly alone, with the ever-growing tax bill funding children you don’t have in schools they don’t attend, or plowing of streets you don’t use in winter, is one. Just as you decide that downsizing might be the way to go–you realize that grandchildren are on the horizon –ok, something you were able to project and think about–but what you didn’t think about was that a pandemic might mean creating pods and bubbles where you, your children and their children might need to quarantine under one roof, if you are to have any semblance of intimate contact with them. Downsizing, now doesn’t seem like such a good idea. But, if not now, when or ever? Then there’s the furniture, which you’ve kept in the family for years, but in which your children now have no interest. The British maxim–“we don’t buy furniture, we inherit it” decidedly doesn’t work in America. Finally, with or without a houseful of family, travel and gatherings for many seniors is currently considered ill advised…which begs the question: Is retiring from the job that gives you the only regular human contact you have, albeit on zoom and teams, a good idea? Now? Soon? Or ever?

What is clear, from a very unscientific polling is that there just isn’t enough “out there” to lend support, advice, counsel for the over-60 crowd to simplify, clarify or weigh the available choices or the pros and cons of the options we face. Unlike the choices we may have made in our younger years, these choices need to stick–and stick well. There is neither energy, time nor inclination for do-overs. As unpleasant as the concept seems, and as verboten as it is to talk of it, time isn’t on our side. The overriding hope needs to be that, whatever the choice, it won’t be one we regret–no do-overs on the eighteenth tee.

These are only a few of the emotional/intellectual quagmires many seniors find themselves considering these days–downsize, move, retire? How about you? And, wouldn’t it be nice, if someone, just someone or maybe a pair of people, say a pair that dabbled in law and real estate for forty plus years, devoted themselves to creating a platform that managed to support all of us as we try to maneuver this maze we call life-over-sixty in 2020? Stay tuned.

Looking back…living with option b.

A few years ago in one of my blog posts, I suggested that I had my own personal sword of Damocles, as I did my best to prepare for the passing of my life partner. At the time I identified very much with, and felt for the first time that I truly kgard4understood, the ineffable nuance buried in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.  It has taken literally years for me to look back and give thought to the “wait”– whether things could or should have been done differently, more thoughtfully or better. I waited nearly two years for the moment when I could write about my personal Monday-morning-quarterbacking and first person second-guessing. Today, for not completely inexplicable reasons–that day arrived.  As you might surmise from this lead in, “underestimated” best describes my level of emotional preparedness for the loneliness that lie ahead.  The impression that as one reaches a certain age you necessarily start to come to terms with the probability of loss, is– misguided.  Most startling? How common the really shattering experience of losing a life partner is (50 percent of all partnered couples experience it) is  and at the same time, how utterly unprepared one is, for it . After months of reading Cheryl Sandburg’s #optionb and following her  #optionb facebook group, I’m fairly certain that we humans have done a poor job of reconciling ourselves to that which is an integral and inescapable part of life.

My student years were filled with the study of philosophy. According to Plato, the best form of government was one ruled by the philosopher, the “philosopher king” he termed it–governing a world guided by a love of wisdom, intelligence, reliability and willingness to live a simple life. Were our world ruled by philosopher kings, no doubt in my mind but that we would be more mindful of Mr. Sagan’s blue dot concept, without having voyage into outer space to embrace it. The philosopher king would cross-fertilize with the scientist, confront the inescapable realities that permeate human existence, and perhaps for the first time, devote thoughtful resources to helping mankind identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

Among the few conclusions I’m willing to publicly share are these two…
1) As inhabitants of this universe, who have managed to rule out the comfort provided by the many deities that previous civilizations relied upon, we need to apply our collective societal intelligence to identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

2) On the positive side, there is one truth that I have found reaffirming–modern civilization’s evolution, anchored in the family construct, offers extraordinary relief, albeit palliative, to intercept the pain of loss in a meaningful way.

On this not-so-upbeat note you have now reached the part where you google images for “inspiring quotes” and/or, slightly sensing the vacuum, invite me to dinner. As for the inspiration and strength, well I find that Winston Churchill is always a good place to start.

optimist