You Don’t Say

S.K. Watts 10/2023                                    

It occurs to me that in this atmosphere where inflation and recession knock on our doors daily, and pandemics which saw eggs reaching to $7 a dozen, that we should rearrange our concepts about how we eat. For that matter, maybe the whole subject of living the ‘American Dream’ as my father once called it. A concept I embraced in my youth but must wonder daily what that translates into for us. Or why I didn’t revise my concept of that to meet the changes of my life and generation before now.

Do stay tuned after a couple of paragraphs as this article will be infused with the sense of humor necessary to navigate the world today. It’s long been said that when you can manage to keep your sense of humor you can overcome more obstacles.

My father served in the army, worked hard all his life, was faithful to his wife and adored his children. He died broke and living on just his social security in the end in 1991 after the company he was with fired all their engineers and went into the design business just a couple of year before he would have been eligible for ‘full retirement.’ Even though he followed the plan of what you were supposed to do in life and to be ready to retire when the time came, and did it as an honorable human being, he basically was thrown to the wolves at the end. Sadly, he tried to work part time after forced retirement and was ‘let go’ because he was “too nice.”

There are many folks who have been left in the same condition due to becoming disabled, losing jobs or everything they had in their portfolios, having to sell everything they had to pay for medical care not covered by their insurance, or by way of many other unexpected circumstances beyond their control.

 My father would have a comeback if he were here. “That this puts us all back to where we were when we were starting our families and working just to keep it all going even if we couldn’t envision a future.” And that would aptly describe a very large portion of the retirement aged folks in our country. It is what it is as the kids would say. But where do we go from here?

I am not a financial counselor and will never propose to be. And I am sure that when the powers that be figure out how much revenue is generated and spent by the over 55 years population, that perhaps more things will change than adjusting the cost of living to be in the vicinity of how much our insurance and medical copays rise each year. Like discounts on home and car loan rates for seniors, and at the grocery stores and some everyday goods. The population who are considered retirement age has kept things going for decades, there really should be some consideration given to our efforts if this is what is necessary to give this target group a better golden years experience. Instead, I am afraid the generations after us see us in a holding pattern hanging on and costing them money. Very sad indeed.

That having been said, perhaps it is time for our generation to embrace some of the things that were traditional in the generations that preceded ours, like making time for afternoon tea if it works in the schedule and bringing GRACE and RITUAL back into style. Or maybe sitting on the porch and talking with the neighbors, whatever slowed us down to enjoy the moment.

I am 70 and starting a business for the first time in my life, as well as working part time at the job I’ve been working for several years. My parent’s dream didn’t quite work out for them, and I have made it my goal to make sure at least some of my own work out for me. I have begun my new path by deciding to embrace some of that nostalgic grace and time that was spent ‘smelling the roses’ and other things that are important to walking the journey we all do in this life. I began slowly, as it took some time for me to realize I do have the time to make like the world isn’t in my face 24/7. All the other hours not spent at work are my own time. I live them in ‘pre-retirement’ mode now, and my blood pressure and dreams are much better because of the new mindset.

What type of things for grace and ritual you ask? There is a myriad of examples, and I will visit a few each installment of my thoughts. They might sound simple but invoke memories and feelings that far exceed their simplicity.

Naps. N-never A-after P-parenthood. Lol. Even though we reinvented the definition of power naps, it is so much better if learn how to take one. A real nap. Even if it is at least an hour’s worth, our body, mind, and spirit require the occasional respite from the speed at which life these days is traveling. Set aside an hour or two before dinner if you are working, or whenever you can fit it in, better if you can do it in the afternoon if you have the time. Acquire yourself a blanket that you will use only for just this occasion. And perhaps a book that you will read only for this purpose if you are used to reading before sleep. A nice cup of herbal tea would do quite nicely while you are reading or getting into whatever your zone is to nap.

Take a tea break. Tea. T– the E– exquisite A– achievement. Afternoon or midmorning tea should be something that relaxes us and makes us feel like we are in control of the world around us. If seen as a ritual, which it is in many countries and groups around the word, each of the ‘components’ of the tea allow for a ceremonial feeling that brings with it not just the pleasure of taking tea, or the company of whoever has joined us, but accomplishment that we celebrated a concept that has throughout the ages been associated with grace and harmony of the spirit. It need not be fancy, just some time set aside to listen to some quiet music and enjoy your favorite tea, or as layered as you wish to make it.

Set aside a special teacup and salad plate for your tea. Buy a box of tea you haven’t considered before, or maybe a favorite you only drink on special occasions. Tea balls are inexpensive, and you might wish to go all out and purchase some loose tea. Maybe even get into reading tea leaves, a quite pleasant and often revealing type of divination. Buy a package of those cookies you aren’t supposed to eat (they market gluten free and sugar free cookies as well) and have a cookie with your cup of tea. You might wish to go all out and learn the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The supplies for which are available online. There is a plethora of teacups you might collect for the occasion. Invite a friend or family member to join you. It might even turn into a delightful time for discussing a book or whatever you wish to celebrate. Keep it peaceful. Keep this time relaxing and rewarding.

Make yourself a cup of tea when you are exhausted in the evening and give yourself permission to enjoy the moment. And to do nothing for a time. After all, you earned it blowing out all of those birthday candles all of those years.

Purchase a Bacon Fork. Yes, that is what I said. I was thinking this morning that perhaps we should all use bacon forks to eat the two pieces and six of bacon strips that are now as expensive as steak once was. If we are going to have to reduce the amount of intake of our favorite foods due to exorbitant costs, we might as well do it graciously. I will be buying bacon for the first time in a long time with my next paycheck and will locate a bacon fork (who knew these were for purchase online as well) for the occasion. I will fill my plate with equally small portions of egg (maybe we should consider going back to raising chickens, lol) and toast so that I approach the food in front of me as being exquisite and decadent instead of just reduced. It’s all about the mind set really. This meal might be worthy of consuming in silence while simultaneously remembering how we once took bacon for granted alongside the thought that this is also a lesson in taking the time to appreciate the taste and texture of something instead of woofing it down as we did when we were younger. I will save a portion of my very precious bacon for my dog who getting older too and should enjoy a little pampering here and there.

No Unnecessary House Cleaning. At least one day a week. Give yourself permission to do something you never have time to do. Pretend you have a housekeeper coming that day. Even if you can’t afford one, it doesn’t hurt to pretend. The clothes will pile up anyway and be there waiting for you the next day, as will the dust and the dishes even when you run around spending hours a day doing housework. You worked for decades. You deserve the rest. Use the time you would’ve been cleaning to watch a movie, have coffee with a friend even if it’s a Zoom visit or while talking on the phone. Read. Write something. Take an extra nap. Learn to nap if you need to. Go through your jewelry or those photos you haven’t managed to upload or put in an album. This is precious extra time you can do what you say you never have time to do. One day a week over a year equals almost two weeks of freed up time to catch up on something you have left undone for a very long time.

Take A Walk. Walks are good for the body, mind, and spirit. Stop and smell the roses or the air even, sing to yourself, think about whatever you haven’t had time to visit in your mind. Pick up a stone that speaks to you. Thank the universe for being alive. Breathe deep and reset your attitude.

It’s just a thought, but sometimes the little things in life are what we remember and cherish. And if we collect enough good memories and take the time to refresh ourselves, we can face most anything. Like figuring out what the American Dream means to us.

The ‘one size fits all’ concept of what the dream was all about began to transform into many different concepts in our parent’s generation. The time has come for us to reconfigure our own. I for one will be proud to say I know how to use a bacon fork, take afternoon tea just before my nap, don’t have to clean my house everyday and have the time to take a daily walk. It’s a beginning. We have the rest of our lives to write the rest of it.

I will be incorporating the above concepts into my own dream today and will revisit the concept of living well around Thanksgiving which is only three weeks away. Until then, happy trails to all and may we each find the time and courage every day to enjoy the world in which we live.

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