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NAVIGATING OUR CHANGES

by Dave Friant


Been thinking recently about the maneuverings during our lifetimes. Next moves are dependent upon so many factors. Getting from points A to B and beyond with the uncertain conditions of our lives is so often a tough row to hoe. From youthful years to the last leg of the voyage. The route is by no means predictable.

Not going to get textbook-ish during this piece. I promise. Just some overviews of periods common to all of our lives.

B-O-R-i-n-g. Hope not.

The initial trek for us all involved guidance from parents or significant others in our lives. Character building. Establishment of behaviors designed to promote integrity and make life easier. Mom and dad emphasized with love the differences between right and wrong. Influencers included the exceptional 7th grade English teacher who sparked the passion for writing, and neighbor Nat who fine-tuned my efforts at humor.

Of course there were some deviations from the straight and narrow with us guys. Influential peers who steered us the wrong way on occasion; buddies whose “give it a try” urgings regarding cigarettes, booze, and flirtatious young ladies frequently resulted in less-than-desirable outcomes. We all in a variety of ways were forced to face the music. Sometimes the relaxation of Seals and Croft with “Summer Breeze.” Too often the troublesome labor of Tiny Tim with his nails on a chalkboard rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

While both challenging and rewarding, the stretch of those mid-20’s thru 50-something years was the biggie. Marriage. Kiddos. The search for employment pertinence. The trifecta of on-the-fly learnin’ in areas foreign to our lives. Newbies who flew by the seat of our pants. A tall order was the handling of new job demands while simultaneously exploring the uniqueness of a life partner. The boss is a jerk appraisals. Bathroom use issues. Sorting out free time activities. Compromising on the viewing of televised sporting events and tear-jerker movies. Toss into that mix the tending to of 3 AM needs from a newborn. “Winging it” became the solution as the marriage took shape.

Adapting to the changes over that period had its’ moments. Calling audibles on occasion when situations in the marriage required variations to the game plan. Unexpected expenses. Moving on from the honeymoon stage to full-fledged embarrassment when what were deemed to be minor household repairs had to be handled by a Mr. Fix-it guy found in the yellow pages. Getting some real heat from our daughter after she summoned up the courage to bring that first boyfriend to the house for a comical grilling by yours truly. The ambivalence of carting off the unworldly young adult(s) to college resulting in room reconstruction for man cave festivities.

On the tail end of that segment of life came the empty nest “wow, just us two together again” reality that can shake the stability of a till death do us part union. No longer any options available to sidestep one-on-one communications. Just you with that mate of a lifetime. Can the smoldering sparks be re-kindled? Sounds preposterous until you’ve been there. It was fortunately not the case for us, but Barry Manilow's "Trying to Get That Feeling Again" top-ten song in the 1970's comes to mind. An enhanced reliance on one another for positive strokes during the regeneration seemed to work.

Whew. Some heavy lifting.

Fast-forwarding a bit to that nebulous term known as “senior adulthood.” 65 or so and above. Yes, I’m aware of the overlooked tweener portion where the paid-off mortgage was ceremoniously burned in the backyard fire pit and the teen-aged grandchildren's prowess in the classroom or on the athletic field took center stage.

Got it. But not for this assembly of thoughts.

Since reasonably new in the arena of “older” age (73 in December and still under warranty), I felt that some sharing of realities and perspectives might be a decent exercise. NOTE: Any apparent depiction of yourself or a friend(s) is purely coincidental.

Retirement. A new set of challenges as we attempt to fulfill dreams and activate plans for these final chapters. As we settle in, the aches and pains of body malfunctioning become bothersome. Measures of worth can disappear with the arrival of that last paycheck. Funds thought to be available for “retirement activities” become scarce due to a variety of other unforeseen matters that crop up.

All take a backseat to the importance of relationships and being connected. Loneliness can be lethal. According to Positive Psychology expert Jaimie Weisberg, “I think we all intuitively know that if we think about the happiest times in our lives, they usually include other people.” Weisberg additionally referenced a Harvard study referencing the quality of the connections subjects had with others correlating with both happiness and increased longevity.

Fill some voids through volunteering, mentoring a child at school, or becoming involved in group activities through a religious affiliation. It’s healthy and not unmanly to do so. We are not yet done. Plenty of time left on the clock.


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