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Archive for the ‘Fearless Aging’ Category

Age Management?

Posted by Jim Selman on 01/9/07

I recently saw a CBS 60 Minutes segment about aging. It revealed, once again, how we view age as a physical state that we can control with “anti-aging medicine”—as if various ‘fixes’ such as growth hormones, plastic surgery, erection drugs and myriad vitamin therapies will somehow put off the inevitable. I am not saying any of these medical remedies are bad. In some cases, it is neat to be able to do things at 80 that most 80-year-olds aren’t doing or haven’t ever been able to do before. Whether medical or other external ‘props’ are needed is not the real issue.

What troubles me is that we view age through the same lens that we view disease…as something bad that needs to be treated. The show also talked about ‘age management’ as a rapidly evolving field that, in one way or another, will help ‘control’ the process of aging in the interest of ‘staying young’ as long as possible or at least making the most of what can only be interpreted as a ‘less than desirable stage of life’. Some folks were even smug in their denial of old age and had consciously decided to risk shortening their lives for a few extra years of looking and feeling ‘young’.

Since the concern for age begins for most of us in our late 40s or 50s, this means that our commonly shared view as a culture and as society is that we will live roughly a third to a half of our lives in a state of decline that should be put off for as long as possible—that we need some external intervention to stay happy and healthy. This is nuts. Why don’t we look forward to getting older? If we can’t look forward to the future—at any age—then we will inevitably, in one way or another, be forced to cope with circumstances as best we can. Winning will be about comfort (rather than accomplishment), and eventually we will (if we haven’t already) become resigned that there isn’t much possibility beyond the short-term and whatever we’ve learned in the past.

I reject the whole “anti-aging” view… I say let’s create a context of “pro-aging” in which we can:

  • Take Viagra because we like sex (not because we want to stay young)…
  • Still be healthy by staying engaged in life and doing all the things we should have been doing all along having to do with exercise and diet…
  • Manage our lives like we always have and not need to worry or give a second thought to our age
  • Have ‘who we are’ become our central concern (not how old we are).

Happiness would then be a natural consequence of living life to the fullest, not some circumstantial hype based on living life in a certain way or on taking some specific medication or supplement.

Most importantly, life would be a constant dance with possibilities, a tantalizing tango of living full out everyday that ends with the last day being as rich, full and filled with potential as the first.

Let us go out the way we came in—with a slap on the ass and a celebratory scream to let everyone know we are ALIVE!

© 2007 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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Navigating Retirement

Posted by Jim Selman on 01/5/07

I think it’s wiser to forget about whether we can retire or not based on what our working status or financial situation may be. If you think you have to work, then there is a natural tendency to moods of resignation, disappointment and, sometimes, resentment. People get depressed whenever they are trapped in a story that limits their self-expression and turns them into victims of the circumstances. This could be important to consider if you will continue to work past the time when you thought you could retire.

If you want money for some purpose (whether to meet your basic needs, sustain a particular lifestyle or to have enough to give away to others), then do what you always do when you want money. Make an offer to an existing organization or, if you’re an entrepreneur, find someone who needs what you have to offer and then deliver. The exchange is money.

From this point of view, we are always engaged in work until the day we die. How much time we spend earning money is a choice — not a fait accompli based on an arbitrary event called retirement. I know that retirement doesn’t seem arbitrary when organizations and countries have rules about the age one ‘must’ retire. But I prefer to think that the individual chooses to retire the organization (rather than ‘from’ the organization) and that our choices don’t end when we leave one source of income.

Like actors, musicians, filmmakers and consultants whose whole careers involve moving from one project, client or organization to another, we can realize that there are no ‘endings’—just another ‘what’s next’. When people ask me what I am doing, I say I am working on a new project. More often than not, they are a lot more interested than when I used to give them my title and job description.

At the end of the day, retirement is a state of mind. It is whatever we choose to make it. The word ‘retirement’ isn’t going to go away. But perhaps if enough of us make it less significant and don’t give our power to it, then we can create retirement as a time worth celebrating, an opportunity to complete a chapter in our lives, and a time to reflect on who we are and what we really value and love—and then commit ourselves to that.

Retirement is analogous to navigating in a sailboat: the water and the weather don’t care which direction we’re going, and the choice is 100% ours.

© 2007 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Posted in Fearless Aging, Retirement | 1 Comment »

Relationship Success

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/28/06

Relationships will atrophy over time. Not because of intentional neglect or lack of love, but because, like any ‘muscle’, relating takes exercise. Use it or it will lose strength and functionality.

I see a lot people in various states of ‘midlife’ crisis confronting their primary relationships from the perspective of ‘time left’. This perspective is different for most of us than the one we had in the early years of relating—even different from the perspective of the ‘maintenance years’ of child-raising and career-building. During these years, there was always ‘enough time’ for either reinventing the primary relationship or, in some cases, completing it through separation or divorce to move on to new experiences.

Having gone through three of these myself, I can confirm that the grass is never really greener elsewhere. While I can think of lots of reasons to end a long-term relationship, lack of ‘zest’ or ‘boredom’ aren’t among them. What it means when we lose the fire and passion in a relationship is that we are beginning to confront our own limitations. We are awakening to the fact that we are finite and mortal, that we need to get on with whatever we want out of life. It is no longer possible to rationalize that there is still “lots of time left”.

Many people in midlife will have transformations and wake up to suppressed dreams that need to be fulfilled. Their primary relationship will be experienced as either an ally in that or a liability. Other than clear, consistent and committed communication of who a person is experiencing themselves to be and what their dreams and requests of their partner are, there is no success formula. This awakening can be disorienting, particularly if the couple has not tended to the ‘weeds’ in the garden of their relationship. But in all cases, it is a good thing if both parties can acknowledge this as a big part of what aging is all about… a kind of second (or third) phase of growing up and taking responsibility for our lives.

In my experience, whether I stay the course with my mate or strike out on my own, the opportunity here is to validate and acknowledge that it is only through the love and space provided by our partner over the years that we are able to have the opportunity to engage in our midlife inquiry and build the future we’ve always wanted.

© 2006 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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A Life Worth Living

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/19/06

The following thoughts were shared by a friend of mine on the question of what it is like to ‘be’ older and wiser. I think they express something we can all learn from if we haven’t already.

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Holidays

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/16/06

Well, today is the first day of Hanukkah (sometimes transliterated as Chanukkah), the Festival of Lights or Rededication. It is the midpoint in the season between Thanksgiving and New Year—the long Holiday Haul. Not only do we consume a lot, but it also consumes a lot of us.

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Not Afraid to Die

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/14/06

In 1981, I was a member of the California Commission on Aging. Looking back, I find it ironic that, with a couple of exceptions, everyone on the commission was in their 40s. We thought we knew a lot about aging, which was, in retrospect, just plain naïve. The two people in their 60s were seemingly token ‘oldsters’, lending their gray hair to our committee.

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Hats!

Posted by Shae Hadden on 12/13/06

I was surprised to sit down to dinner at a restaurant last night and look up to see a table full of women boldly wearing red hats sitting across from me. Few people wear hats these days, fewer still with any sense of style. Yet these ladies, members of the Red Hat Society, were obviously comfortable with themselves and sassy enough to carry it off.

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Back from the Future

Posted by Jim Selman on 12/5/06

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My mother is almost 87 and my father 89. They live in Tucson and have a nice manufactured home in a nice park on Speedway. Mother’s health is failing due to emphysema: Dad seems to be doing well and going strong. They migrated to Arizona about 15 years ago in deference to Mother’s desire for heat and dry air. Dad would prefer to be in Texas or Oklahoma where the ‘hawks turn lazy circles in the sky’… mostly for fishing and picking pecans. Perhaps one of these days he will get his wish.

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One Day at a Time

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/17/06

As long as I can remember, people have been teaching me to relax, enjoy the moment, smell the roses and just take it easy—to live life one day at a time. This wisdom is at the center of Alcoholic Anonymous’ prescription for living a sober and sane life. I wonder why it is so difficult—even rare—to live in the moment and why I find it easier to do so as I grow older?

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Who am I?

Posted by Jim Selman on 11/14/06

I think the most important question we ever ask ourselves is “Who am I?” There are probably as many ways to answer this question as there are philosophies. How we answer it will determine a lot about how we observe the world, the possibilities we have, how we relate to the future and, ultimately, how we experience our lives.

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