Kind Words

良言一句三冬暖
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb

I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.

! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.

I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.

To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.

It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).

After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.

Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?

__________________________

Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.

“Hi, Honey, I’m Home…Forever!”

There are endless quips regarding marriage and retirement.

“When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you, to the one that married you.” (Gene Perret)

“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband and half the salary.” (William Mitchell)

“A married husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” (Ella Harris)

“Warning: Retired person on premises. Knows everything and has plenty of time to tell it.” (Annonymous)

And the title quote (also from Gene Perret).

I’m sure that you can add others….

A year before I retired, I diligently began to read all that I could on the emotional side of retiring. The work that I read on marriage and retirement stopped me in my tracks. Much of this research hammered out the frequently mismatched perceptions of couples once retiring (ranging from different opinions on money, time together/apart, chores, daily activities, travel, family commitments, etc., etc.). According to this research, this misalignment can lead to marital breakdown where, as several studies found, a quarter of American divorces take place with couples who are fifty-years or older. (Yogev, 2012) It can also apparently lead to such strange phenomena as
“Shujin Zaitaku Sutoresu Shoukougun,” literally “One’s Husband Being at Home Stress Syndrome.” (BBC News, 2006-11-29) The more I read, the bleaker the news. I quickly quit reading.

After nineteen months of being officially retired, what is my personal experience with marriage and retirement? Without being too much of a schmoopie, I couldn’t be happier. So much so that I went back to the research with fresh (but slightly more experienced) eyes. What did I find?

• Sixty percent of couples report that there is (ultimately) an improvement in their marriage after retirement. (Forbes, 2007)
• Compared with a matched sample of working men, male retirees
reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. (Kulik, 1999)
•Both wives and husbands tend to indicate greater marital satisfaction if they retired at the same time. (Forbes, 2007) Although, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, fewer than twenty percent of American couples retire in the same year.
• Married couples are twice as likely to save for retirement, often giving them more financial security in their retirement years. (Social Security Administration)
•Retirement reinforces the pre-existing quality of individual marriages, e.g. retirement tends to have a positive effect on marriages that were previously strong and happy, and a negative effect on marriages that were previously shaky. (Missouri Families)

I also went back to Yogev’s research. If I hadn’t quit reading her work so early, I would have realized that it was filled with practical tips and just plain good advice for starting retirement as a couple on a positive note. e.g. :

•Take time and think about what each of you would like to do during retirement
•Communicate openly
•Be specific by what you mean
•Be willing to compromise
•Set boundaries
•Find shared interests
•Ensure individual personal space
•Designate household tasks
•Allow yourself to take baby steps on new endeavors – you seldom need to rush
(Yogev, 2012).

As I perused these strategies, I shuddered with gratitude. I am realistic about my shortcomings and am thankful to have someone who balances out areas where I am not naturally inclined. As in dancing, the moves are more effortless, and enjoyable, with a strong, steady partner. Someone who can both seamlessly lead, and follow, allowing you to find your own unique steps as an individual while maintaining harmony as a team. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Richard. There are no words to express my deepest love and appreciation.

January 21, 2000
Back to the scene of the crime!

__________
Yogev, Sara. A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse …But Not for Lunch, Familius, Second Edition, 2012.

For those who have not seen Seinfeld’s take on schmoopies recently, you really should watch it now!
And if you missed my (slightly ‘schmoopied’) anniversary post last year, you can catch it here.

Enter If You Dare!!







When hiking the trails at Cameron Lake, on Vancouver Island, I came across several old cabins which made me pose the questions:

Would you enter?
Or dare peek inside?
Uninvited?
Today?
Even if you knew that hauntings, the ghost of Grandpa Bonney, the Cameron Lake Monster and Sasquatch sightings have all been reported in this area?
Even if you suffered from Friggatriskaidekaphobia?

Cameron Lake is surrounded by McMillian Park, lush with towering ancient Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars. Overlooking the lake you will find train trestles with wooden platforms. The trestles, now inactive, boast an incredible history and stand as an iconic landmark. Sitting on the lake, below the trestles, are several cottages originally used by the workers who maintained the railway and safeguarded it from fire. The cottages since have been passed down to the families of these workers.

Cameron Lake has repeatedly been at the center of much intrigue and fascination. In addition to what has been mentioned above, there have been several mysterious events, often retold by locals. These occurrences include the crash of a small plane (1968) where the wreckage (still containing the remains of the four passengers) was not discovered in the lake’s waters until fifteen years later. (Additional Sources: 1, 2). There have also been unsolved reports of a three-foot monkey appearing in people’s driveways just a few kilometers away (despite no one in the area known, or licensed, to own such an animal). And then there are the stories for which I could find no shred of substantiation (other than to confirm that these stories do in fact exist). These include tales of a train wreck that supposedly lies at the bottom of the lake and has never been recovered.

Earlier this week, my husband and I donned our hiking boots and rain gear (it is Vancouver Island after all) and set out to capture a few extra photos for this post. The dark skies and drizzle were perfect for the photos that I had in mind.

When we first arrived along the shore, lined with small cabins, our eyes were immediately drawn to a string-bikini-clad bather. She seemed to be having her own photo shoot on the floating dock of one of the cabins. Before you begin imaging a warm climate, it was four degrees Celsius with a stinging rain. To my husband’s chagrin, I resisted the temptation to sneak in a shot of the event.

As we continued along, Cameron Lake did not disappoint and held fast to its reputation for giving cause to wonder. Does that not oddly look like some kind of monkey king deep in that tree? (Ninth photo, no special effects.) And look! There’s a strangely elongated face high on the other trunk! (Tenth photo, again no special effects.) Well, I might as well roll with the fun and get a shot of Grandpa Bonney himself…or the closest stand-in that I could find. (Eleventh photo…special effects may have been used!)

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!!

________
This post has been written for #ThursdayDoors, a weekly blog link-up hosted by Montreal blogger/photographer Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. Why not check out the other ‘door’ postings…safe from the inside of your home?!

Retirement: Am I Still Transitioning?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I took the ‘leap of faith’ into retirement without a clear map of what we wanted our post-career life to look like. We did follow our plan to relocate to Vancouver Island. We have also been spending much time with family/friends, enjoying our grandchildren, meeting new people and traveling…all of which we had hoped to do.

In fact, our retirement so far has been a whirlwind of family time, social time and travel. It has been the gaps in-between those fast-paced times which gives me pause to wonder, “Am I still transitioning?” “Should I have a more established routine?” “Am I achieving what I wanted from this amazing gift of freedom?”

We had decided to give ourselves ample time to transition. But how long does transitioning take and should I be doing something more with my retirement? Volunteering? A deeper commitment to my community? Contributing to world peace? Or even just achieving a more established routine or engaging in some form of ‘employment’ (shriek here)!

Originally led by the work of Professor Robert Atchley, (The Sociology of Retirement, R. C. Atchley – 1976), researchers suggest that the psychological process of retirement follows a similar pattern to other major areas of transition, and can be divided into distinct stages. Researchers also suggest that it is not always necessary to complete each of these stages sequentially before moving onto the next. Also, like many other transition models, there are several variations on the labeling and description of the phases. The sources are endless. I have listed just a few of them here. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4).

The core phases are often described as follows:
1. Pre-retirement – Planning Phase
2. The Final Days of Work – Farewell Phase
3. The Initial Days of Retirement – Honeymoon Phase
4. So this is it? – Disenchantment Phase
5. Building a New Identity – Reorientation Phase
6. Moving On – Establishing Routine and Stability Phase

And there it was, staring me in the face–the disenchantment phase. It hits us all, even if just fleetingly — especially after travel or holidays. As Abba so appropriately asked in their song, ‘Happy New Year’*, What do we do at the end of the champagne and fireworks? How do we know if we are going astray, or do we keep on going (astray) anyway? (Source 5).

And that really is the question that I have been asking myself this post-holiday season, after my eighteen months of retirement. Luckily, again, according to researchers, it is these exact questions (Who am I now? What is my purpose?) that we need to ask ourselves in order to achieve closure from our working days and fully embrace our retirement years.

Currently, I would say that I am juggling between Phases 3 and 5, with a healthy dose of Phase 4 mixed into the intervals. I’m definitely not at Phase 6 quite yet. Since that stage is about ‘finding stability and routine,’ I think I’ll keep experimenting with what’s out there for a little while longer!

If you are retired, do these phases seem familiar to you? Are there any additional phases that you would add?

___________________________________

*When I was part way through writing this post, I came across Abba’s song ‘Happy New Year’ featured on Hugh’s Views and News blog. It fit in perfectly with my theme. It is truly amazing how often this ‘synchronized blogging’ happens. You can check out Hugh’s post here.

“It Always Seems Impossible Until it is Done” (Nelson Mandela)

Last January 1st I made a single New Year’s resolution. I resolved to begin a blog containing my reflections as I transitioned into retirement. When I first moved to Beijing in 2001, I started a small journal that I emailed to friends and family. I, unfortunately, didn’t maintain that log for long, and always wished that I had. So many stories and newnesses from that period have been lost or modified over time.

I love to write, to wonder, to discover and to share. I now had a second chance with another new chapter in my life. Would I have any readers? I tried not to think about that part. I once again took a leap of faith.

If a crystal ball would have told me that within one year I would have written 71 posts, had 5,526 blog visitors (from 95 countries), 13,479 post views and 922 comments (plus an equal amount of blog comments on other social media links) I would have determined that the ball was broken! I realize that for the big and even medium-sized blogs out there these numbers may seem minuscule, but to me, they are a miracle.

As I continued to write and to read other people’s blogs, I began to discover what, for me, lies at the true heart of blogging. Keeping in touch with friends, building new relationships along the way, sharing ideas, connecting, reaching out, and inspiring each other have by far been the most rewarding part of the on-line writing experience. It is you that has allowed this to happen–and for that, I am both humbled and grateful. Blogging has also allowed me to process sorrowful events that have taken place for me this past year. Your kind words and sharing of your own experiences have deeply touched both me and my family.

In honour of this blogiversary, I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have updated my About Page (which you can check out here). I have also switched to a new theme (bye bye WordPress TwentyFourteen, hello TwentySeventeen). After my last comment update fail, I was hesitant to mess with my comment section, but I have added a feature that automatically allows other bloggers to link their most recent post. Fingers crossed that it works this time! I am also toying with the thought of switching to https (Secure Sockets Layer) but so far have remained firmly undecided on this move. If you have any feedback on any of these current or potential changes, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you are a blogger who uses WordPress Twenty Seventeen, and you have any cool tips, please share!

If you check out this blog even semi-regularly (or mean to) and have not yet subscribed, I would be grateful if you would do so. It is quick, easy and free (and you can do it by email or WordPress reader). Signing up helps you to ensure that you never unintentionally miss a post. And for me, it helps me to know that you are out there.

I am now off to choose my resolution for 2017. I am aware that resolutions do not work for everyone, but for me, a single, well-chosen New Year’s goal can be very powerful. I am finding my final selection to be much more difficult this year. In choosing, I hope to keep Nelson Mandela’s wise words in mind. Please stay posted!

Feature Photo created with: canva.com.