Privilege Blog

Decisions And Inspiration, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:07am

Today I will be revisiting my 30s and 40s. Or maybe simulating them is a better way to put it. The family’s coming over for dinner, and I’m cooking. I plan to spend time on the floor with not one but two babies. Seems apt, in a time where I’m sorting out the question of So Then What Happened, to backtrack. See what’s there.

I had tea this week with a reader, a woman of my general age, who is also mulling over retiring or taking another job in her career field. It was a beautiful afternoon, hotter here than previous Octobers, and in Northern California style we sat outside a cafe under an oak and let the sun walk across our table. Onto our faces.

It came time to end the conversation, clear by then that we had a lot in common and would look for another opportunity to talk. A persistent part of my self of felt the need to sum up, to call out the highest order issue. “The thing is, I said, “At this point, what with my mom’s surgery and all, I am thinking a lot about how much time is left.”

Those aren’t my exact words. I paraphrase. I imagine you will forgive me.

I kept talking, another persisting trait. “It’s not about what to do next, it’s about 50 or 60 more years. If I’m aggressively optimistic. And I’m wondering what’s the best decision now for that entire future time span.’

Do you guys remember I went to a yoga class? Man it kicked me to the curb. I felt very clearly what almost 2 years in an office had done to my body. If I do nothing to remediate my poor soft tissues I’ll regret it.

So Then What Happens? Get fit? Develop a consuming hobby and the concomitant required expertise? (Significant Husband and I are thinking hiking. Did you know how much gear one can acquire if one so desires? My goodness.) Dive into a cause? Or take on one more capitalist gig? (The word capitalist is wholly mine. Few people use expressions like that in corporate America.)

Because work is fun. Work is hard, sure, but it’s exhilarating, consuming, compelling, satisfying. I like to solve hard problems. I like to face down ambiguity and risk. I like deciding. And especially, something that I’ve noticed since I came home, I like having other people on my team.

Kind of goes with the talking. Extroverts are us.

The women I was having tea with had made a plan and timeline for her decisions. I am was impressed. For some reason, I need to follow a random walk methodology. Wait for inspiration. Attend the hidden.

Go to sleep. Dream. Wake up in the middle of the night. Check email. Sleep. Wake up. Check my body. How does it feel today? Read a cookbook. Pot roast? Chicken tarragon?

Go outside. Prune roses. Pick forget-me-not burrs out of the hiking socks I wore under my Crocs. Lesson learned. Buy new flannel pajama bottoms. Keep foot up and notice that it appears to be healing.

Scribble notes on paper. When I’m really thinking, I still need to engage my handwriting. Is that true for everyone in my generation?

Wait. Pay attention. And, it appears for me at least, use big words. In this process, you guys are on my team, and I appreciate it. Have a wonderful weekend.


48 Responses

  1. Goodness, Lisa, give yourself a break. Let the truth well up inside you. You’ve just gotten married, you’ve just retired, you’re having a tough time figuring out what to wear on a couch. So you need a break to let stuff seep in to help you see the way.

    But, hey, I’m with you. Let the truth guide you or something meaningful like that. :-) In other words in English, give yourself some room to enhale. Anyone who is so worried about what to wear on a couch needs some breathing room before she buys some hiking boots.

    1. Oh Sandy that stings! Surely I am not worried, only solving the most immediate issue in a profound lift?

  2. 50 or 60 years??!!…and here am I, wondering about how to get through the upcoming holidays. A million years ago (or it may have only been 20) a very wise friend told me that the secret of life was to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sounds a lot like hiking, or, in my case, ambling. Whichever, good luck :)

  3. I seem to remember that our mothers were the same age when they had us (Mine was 22), and that just doesn’t seem very far away from my 60-year-old’s perspective. So I’m thinking many of the same thoughts, especially having so recently lost mine. You’re wonderfully optimistic with the 50-60 year timeline! I anticipate somewhat less, but it still seems worth some cogitation, perhaps some planning, and definitely some random walking . . . .Meanwhile, have a lovely weekend and take care of that foot.

  4. I think the first thing on your list is to be grateful that you have so many choices. Past giving thanks I put tending to ones health first. So – try the wedgie Nikes, take yourself back to Yoga, and visit LL Bean (or whatever West Coast hikers frequent) for some sensible shorts with many pockets.

  5. Well said…as you so frequently do…

    What to do, how to do it and what’s the best way forward… totally consuming and more importantly… so exciting…

    I find this 50’s age the best ever… I like the freedom of choice, the independence and what I do every day…

    Have a fabulous weekend Lisa… and thank you for your thoughts… xv

  6. Definitely sounds wise to take some time to lie fallow for a bit, slow down your frantic routine, breathe and see what comes next.

    Best of luck with it all!

  7. I hear you on the curb-kicking yoga! The first time I took it up after 7 years I did not fall asleep that night but kind of lost consciousness till late next morning and remained deathly pale all day. Nearly made me reconsider.

    Can’t imagine not working yet. I’d definitely try and keep giving my seminars as long as possible since I seem to thrive on performance activities and challenges for immediate response. There is a very deep satisfaction in working out things together and seeing people gain insights and change their approaches.

    I hope you find your ideal activities. But it is still early days …

    1. I too thrive on performance. Teaching has occurred to me – just have to figure out what I know that’s worth transferring with rigor.

  8. I thought it was just me with the Yoga. I did one term and gave up because my back just couldn’t take it. And I found it boring. Sorry but true, yet I did it for years and years in my 20’s-30+’s. Regarding work: remember that one can hide behind it giving one little time to discover the ‘hidden’. The hardest yet best advice I received from a therapist this year when at a crossroad in my life and a 3 week block of space in my diary that was not filled with work or new ventures was to just allow the space to be. And to see what came up. That was scary. Scary. I faced the challenge, and a whole lot of wonderful things evolved from that time, including time to stare down the demons. I am a changed person from that experience. My life now has a different direction than the one I might have taken or ‘brainstormed’ and I notice something else too. I am no longer afraid of the future. Just a thought.

  9. I really dislike the word ‘hobby’, it seems so trivial, so lacklustre. Wish I could think of a better word to describe an interest, an activity that you decide to focus on or that just sort of takes you over once you have the time and energy and space in your life to allow that to happen. Work is all the positive things you listed and it doesn’t have to be paid work for a company. You can work at your ‘hobby’ and find great enjoyment and satisfaction.

    I’m a planner too so I understand the impulse or need to try and plan for the future….but…cut yourself some slack. Allow yourself to just sit around if that’s what you feel like, have some lazy days, whatever you like. An intelligent, energetic and dynamic woman like you will be busy soon enough. Enjoy!

  10. I like this part particularly:

    Because work is fun. Work is hard, sure, but it’s exhilarating, consuming, compelling, satisfying. I like to solve hard problems. I like to face down ambiguity and risk. I like deciding. And especially, something that I’ve noticed since I came home, I like having other people on my team.

    I just turned 70 and have been running, along with my spouse, a custom, symbolic/magickal jewelry making business for 30 years now. He is 63 but he’s a;so just miraculously recovered from stage 4 viral cardiomyopathy (in less than 2 years from diagnosis!) and me from a freak shattered wrist (in March of this year and it is completely healed – not even any sympathy from old friends that I just saw who missed the pain/anguish part!). He makes each piece of jewelry in silver or gold by hand and to order and I do most everything else. I LOVE it! I love the email and the customer interactions; the cute packaging I put together and the coding to write the web site which hurts my head but fires up new neurons at the same time.

    Unfortunately – and I what I love less – we’ve never really made any money; we have no help (despite much trying); the occasional asshole still stresses me out (though they are very occasional given what they are buying from us and no one – NO ONE had EVER bounced a check or used s stolen card)! I wonder if I can do this till I die and I intend to find out. No choice really so it’s good I love it!

    Despite those few problems we are in excellent health and I keep grounded with Buddhist meditation tapes – all the benefit and half the work of regular meditation!

    Your life unfolds before you like a shimmering jewel, Lisa.

  11. Work IS fun, when you have jobs like we have had, and being paid well for it is an outside affirmation of our worth. After 8 months of semi-retirement (I still have the office and secretary, but many fewer responsibilities – and yes, I realize how lucky I am), I am still feeling my way as to how in want to spend my time. Fitness, yes – you might check out the free NHS Couch to 5K podcasts. Beyond that, I’m not yet sure. As for hiking, I recommend good boots, hiking pants (inexpensive, lightweight, and quick-dry) and poles, but that’s all you really need. (Okay, quick-dry tops and layer are also nice.) I’ll be interested to see what you decide to do.

  12. Your post particularly resonated for me today… I am creeping up on 62 and lost my mom this year. This moved me to retire early (or ‘take a break’ from my career– who knows). And yes, returning to yoga after 5 years away is truly humbling; I recommend the classes that include both the words “gentle” and “therapeutic” to start! Hiking (because I am in the Bay area too) is an important activity for me and we are blessed with hundreds of trails and microclimates to explore– few gadgets needed, though poles on the steeper trails for the downhill are a good add; my knees like it. The new exploration for me in these early months is drawing. I so enjoy your posts– keep em coming!

  13. Just wanted to say that I’m not yet 30 and I need to write longhand, on real paper with a real pen, to think clearly. That trait has survived at least in one enclave. Good luck with your journey.

    1. @Maria,
      I too am under 30 and “compose” and think in pen, although my writing is as likely to be on an envelope, napkin, or margin as on “real paper.” I do, however, edit those fragments on a screen.

    2. Very good to know. I also edit on a screen. I only start out on paper, and only for the rockiest thinking.

  14. You are not the same person you were in your 30’s or 40’s, in cooking, lolling, or working. That has been my central epiphany. When I returned to my capitalist phase (and I do use that word unapologetically) I found myself unable to deal with the chronic stress attached to major responsibility, team, challenges, results, metrics, etc. NONE of this occurred without me lying awake at 4am, neglecting my workouts, cogitating constantly over everything beyond my control. I looked like hell. Pardon my effrontery, but I really don’t think you can count on another 50 years. Business has a rhythm of its own. It is constant, it rewards the young and aggressive,it is unappreciative of the corporal rhythms of young mothers or post-menopausal women. If you can find work that honors your age, your body, your spirit, do it. That is my goal as well. But if I don’t find that, I will just keep hiking on Mt. Tam, where I live. And how I love that, with my husband! And how you and yours will, too. Because the time will come when our bodies will not serve us in these pursuits. They too, have rhythms of their own. Oh, and to have wasted that? Never!

    1. Perhaps we will meet you on Mt. Tam:). I think a lot about the corporate world, and whether it can and will ever shift its rhythms, what with the constant competitive struggle that’s inherent in the model.

  15. Ah. The very possibility of blank paper is what gives rise to ideas, and from where good ideas can flow… in lazy roller point scrawls with arrows pointing back to the main thoughts or side bars in margins. It’s how we learn to think out-of-the-box.

    What could be more midlife than the 50s? Especially when we no longer find it uncommon to hear of someone having a 100th birthday? It is both a time of reflection and a time of re-assessment and with that naturally must follow planning if one hopes to live out one’s days in good health with reasonable care. We recognize we can play a role in preparing ourselves for this task by becoming more healthful in body, mind and spirit. For do not all those attributes affect how we spend ultimately our time and then our money which will make all the difference in the overall quality if the rest if our born days. It’s lively you took the time to have tea with a reader. Its outbids like a wonderful, stimulating conversation ensued. I’m glad you brought it to our table! I too am looking forward to a return to cooking (maybe?). I remember the joy I used to take in it as I look through the leather-bound Menu books I once kept with seating charts, notes of linens, flowers, vases used, and tiny drawings of objets I decorated the table with or if in early years, photos of the set table. How did I go from that to having an opened Cuisinart for the last 3 years?

  16. ERRATA: unopened Cuisinart – last sentence.

    also I meant “outside” instead of “outbids”.

    Thank you, Auto Fill, good job! I’m tired. Apologies.

  17. Think you have lots of time to figure this out.
    It’s early days so take Baby steps…in new sneakers and high end sweat pants.
    At least that is generally what I am doing minus the sweat pants!

  18. I feel a turn in my life too, I’m wondering what to do for this part of life, just keep treading water… or what? I’m not sure.
    I also find it awkward, almost uncomfortable to write with a pen now – shocking.

  19. “wait…pay attention…use big words”

    Us too, then? I gather the answer is yes, so this team member submits her first report:

    My head is full of information re my own research in Community Foundations across the US as I’ve recently committed to membership in our local CF. As a curiosity I asked google whether SF has a CF, wow, does it ever and with over $1 billion in assets, up and running since 1948. Impressive.

    Oddly, serendipitously, google informed me of a gem of an executive opening at the SFCF. If you hadn’t mentioned philanthropy recently, and if you weren’t experiencing executive withdrawal restlessness syndrome, I’d not sense the stars aligning. Just for fun, I’ll drop my google gleanings into this box.

    The website:

    Recent press:

    The job opportunity/Director of Business Development:

    Than again, that book proposal you mentioned, the one that generated the “huh?” response from the agent, well phooey on that. You just need to get up and go sit across the table, go at it from another angle, you have solid material waiting for a reinvigorating angle. I see really cool new books being published, I read the review and think what a terrific angle, how’d they ever think of going at the information that way. Further? the remark you left at Daily Prep in response to ‘prep buzz being non prep,’ now there’s an angle ie, how the non-verbal generations past conveyed so many ironclad rules. With a comical twist.

    This comment is too long. I might get fired from the team. You could have written this in 3 or 4 sentences.

  20. Maybe go to school? That’s what I did, at least: at first the plan was to just take a few French classes, and somehow, almost seven years later, I’m working through my second to last semester of an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). BA in French was earned in 2012.

    Right now I’m working on a critical review of the works of a TESOL scholar and a lot of complaining is going on; it’s been about 20 hours of hard work over the last two days and still a few more hours to go before I finish. At the same time it is very satisfying work; I’m learning (a lot) and will have an end product that I’m very proud of (and that will hopefully receive a good grade!). Every assignment I do contributes to the new identity that I am building as a teacher and as a scholar, and it’s pretty cool to be doing this in middle age (53).

    You seem like someone who needs to be doing something useful; it also seems like you are curious and adventurous, so I am guessing that you’ll find the perfect venue for your “second act.” Just wanted to suggest that maybe education, in some shape or form, might be a path to consider.

  21. very happy to be in your team and in an identical situation!it is as if it was written for me …

  22. Re: Tracy’s comment – just allow the space to be and see what comes up. That is basically the same conclusion I came to in discussions with my therapist recently. I will be turning 65 in January and plan to retire at the end of the school year. It’s time to move on and not hide behind the job – for me at least. I am very excited to see what comes next and am less afraid of the future. I am a planner, too, and have always felt uncomfortable if there is not a plan for everything and every day. I have reached that stage of my life when I am feeling like I should just be happy/thrilled to wake up each morning and not worry about the plan for the day. Number one on my list of priorities though is staying fit and healthy – taking care of physical, mental and emotional health. I am learning to enjoy the here and now; and being happy to spend time with my family – especially my husband who retired from a high profile position 3 years ago and seems to be handling the retirement just fine. Am also looking forward to more adventures with my four year old grandson. I certainly don’t want to get to the end and realize that my job kept me from having enough time and energy to do all the other wonderful things that might be out there. My mom is turning 90 this coming year so I want to spend more time with her, too. And yes, I want to get back to yoga after 5 years away from it! ;)

  23. I am about your age, Lisa and not working. I share many of your dilemmas. Miss some things about my field, though relieved not to be encumbered with the dailiness of it, and yet overwhelmed by the extreme privilege and scope of choice. I will eagerly share your journey.

    Thanks for writing.

  24. I’d like to be “aggressively optimistic” too, but, given your present age, I would not count on 50 or 60 more years, at least upright. If you check out the life expectancy tables for your current age, that might give you all the more reason to do what calls you, now.

  25. I love the idea from one of your readers to write about your India experience using some unique angle. You write beautifully and this could be a way to give your mind the space to explore the universe of available options without anchoring yourself to specific steps.

  26. Hiking is cheap. Just some decent shoes, so give it a try. I think you should probably write a book – with beautiful illustrations – maybe a stylish romance!

  27. Well, I see it more as providing the necessary techniques and then coaxing out of people their unique way of deploying them.

    I’m sure people turn to you in that way…

    It’s highly important that you embody what you teach – the most important impression pupils or clients take home, a kind of osmosis that takes place that provides inspiration and guidance.

    Why not ask others where you’ve been most helpful to them or what impresses them most when dealing or working with you. That might provide clues, too.

    And now it’s off to work. Yawn ….

  28. Another thought,Wasps were made to wear safari chic hiking outfits! I can just see you in a white Columbia safari shirt, lavender bandana, olive green cargo shorts (with zip-out longer leg), structured brown felt safari hat with leather chin string. Sensible Keen hiking boots with ample toe box. Sturdy girl perfection!

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