Life Is Fiction

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I love reading stories about women who do an about change in their life because their circumstances are making them unhappy. Two well-known examples that come to mind are “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat, Pray, Love”, but I have discovered there are many more out there to discover. I can hear the groans now! You’re probably thinking this woman’s age is affecting her brain. Yes, these stories are fiction, but often real life is stranger than fiction. And I honestly believe that writers use real life situations in their novels because the readers can relate to the characters easily.

Just yesterday, I finished the book, ” Under Italian Skies” by Nicky Pelligrino.

20190724_095220 It was recommended by a friend who knows I love Italy and France as much as she does. The book itself was entertaining, but more important was the fact that it was written about middle-aged women and their lives and dreams. Fiction, yes, but those women could have been any one of my real friends. All of the characters had come to a point in their lives where they thought they had to accept their situations. They were all beautiful women with so much more life to enjoy. All they needed was a gentle push.

 

We often fall into ruts throughout life. Our days become routine and mundane. If you are raising a family, this is especially true, and having been a single parent who raised two children alone, I know how easily we can lose ourselves in their lives. Dreams fade into the background of every day requirements so far that we often forget they even ever existed. When I was younger, my own mom often reminded me that I had no time of my own, but even back then, I knew my turn would eventually come.

My children grew up and left home, and I found myself with a great deal of time for me. Luckily, I had an amazing circle of friends, all in similar circumstances. As time went on, more women joined our group. We were drawn together by our common interests, but we have also expanded our lives by trying new things together. There is something very reassuring about the support from others.

I can’t say it enough. Live your dreams as much as possible; you will never regret it. Just today, I came across a post by Humans of New York in Facebook about a woman who is doing just that. I enjoyed the piece so much, I am including it in this post. It reads as follows:

“I spent thirty-six years as an editor at the New York Times. There were so many rounds of layoffs, and so many buyout opportunities– but I kept turning them down. I was terrified of retirement. I never wanted to ‘retire.’ The word sounded terrible to me. It meant going to Florida and dying. It meant sitting in a chair and watching daytime TV. It meant not working anymore. Not thinking anymore. Nothing but play and relaxation. And that wasn’t enough for me. That’s not living. You always need to have a goal. Grandchildren are great, but they’re not enough. You need something to wake up your brain. A reason to focus. A reason to get out of bed and use everything that you’ve ever learned. I’ll never see myself as retired. Right now I’m trying to become a fiction writer. I love it because my brain is always working. Some days I think about my work so much, that when I finally sit down to write, it just comes pouring out my fingers. I’d love to finish a book one day. Something that people enjoy. And I’d love to have it published. Maybe a hardcover from Random House. That gets optioned for a movie. And wins an Oscar. Oh it’s exciting, isn’t it? I could go on and on.”

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So, the next time that you read a lovely fictional story, and you find yourself wishing that was your life, think again. You are the author of your own book. Write it the way you want it to be.

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

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A while ago at the pub, I had a discussion with a gentleman who stopped by our table to chat. He was there for a friend’s retirement party in another room. The conversation eventually got around to the concept of forced retirement. He was quite annoyed that we are often shown the door before we are ready to leave just because we have reached the magic age. Then someone else added that some people stay longer than they should at their jobs.

It got me thinking back about my own retirement. After 32 years of teaching, I was definitely ready to leave my profession. I had had my fill of unreasonable parents, constantly changing curricula, watered down educational standards, and all the political crap that went with it, but I was only 53. Had I reached my employment expiry date? How do we know when it’s time to go?

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Perhaps it’s time!

Initially, I was excited to begin the next step, but also filled with trepidation at the thought of endless time and no place that I HAD to be. Ideas consumed every free moment. I could volunteer; I could catch up on all the reading that I never found time for; I could redecorate the old house that I had just purchased; I could travel; I could write the book that I had always wanted to write.  Yes, I could do all these things and more. So why did I feel so apprehensive, so lost for direction? It took me only a few weeks to realize I  was not ready to be unemployed. 022e426bff51a2f8732e1ea44a72525d Even though I had a decent pension, I worried about having enough money to live my new life with so much extra time to do things.

I had spent a lifetime raising two kids, looking after a home, and getting my university degree while working full time. My life had ticked along on a tight schedule for as long as I could remember, and now all of a sudden there was no discernible routine. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and even if I wanted.  I was totally unprepared for these circumstances and I was forced to take a long, hard look at myself.

So, how do we decide it is time? Sometimes that decision is made for us. An unexpected accident may take away our ability to work. As we age, our health changes. For many, they can no longer physically do their job. Occasionally, we are able to handle modified work, but this is not always an option. For me, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. I disagreed with so many of the changes happening within the school system that going to work each day was becoming frustrating. I loved working with the children, but it was not enough to sustain my interest anymore. I was beginning to feel like I was just putting in time to collect my pay and that did not sit well with me. When a colleague suggested that I retire and do supply teaching, I responded, “Hell, no!”

Well, it has been 18 years since I retired from teaching children, but I did not retire from working. About 2 months after my retirement date, I started working with a private company that retrained injured workers to start new careers. I remained with this company for 12 years until it eventually closed its doors. I also did a brief stint in retail just to ease myself into permanent retirement. I can finally say that I am just fine with my status.

Only you will know when it is time to leave the workforce. Just remember, if you feel that you made a mistake, try something new. Life is not carved in stone!

 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Seniors in the Limelight

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David hit the proverbial “nail on the head”. Oh, you don’t need to remind me that there are plenty of negative aspects to getting older; I have addressed many of them already in my previous posts. I have often heard younger age groups espouse the sentiment that your youth is the best time of your life, or getting married is the best time, or having children are the best years of your life. The fact is, as I see it, all these are true because at the time you have no idea what the future will bring. However, once you reach your senior years, you can look back and make the comparison with clearer insight.

Speaking for myself, I know I lived most of those early years trying to be the best wife, and mom, and person I could be. Admirable qualities for sure, but if I am to be honest, I often did and said things that I thought were expected of me, not always how I really felt. I’m not much of a gambler, but I would bet most of you went through the motions, just like I did. I think Helen Mirren echoed my thoughts when she said,

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As we move further into the twenty-first century, I think people look at seniors differently. We are not a group to be ignored  as though we have used up our usefulness. With better health care and lifestyle, many individuals are living well into their eighties and beyond. Many are fortunate enough to have livable pensions which obviously improves our lifestyle. However, I now know for certain that money cannot buy us happiness and contentment in our “golden years”. It is truly the people around us, both friends and family, who enhance our lifestyle and sense of well-being.

Just recently, I read a wonderful book by Frances Mayes called “Women in Sunshine”.

20180512_124242.jpg The story is about three women heading into their senior years. They meet when each decides to have a look at a retirement home. The unlikely friendship that evolves with these three very different strangers is amazing. Although they are moving into their retirement years, they are nowhere near ready to stop living their life to it’s fullest and enjoying new adventures. I really hated for the book to end and wished I didn’t have to return it to the library. It was so easy to imagine myself and my friends doing the same thing.

In past years, the “Golden Girls” were a comedy hit on tv. Four senior women living under the same roof and all with very diverse personalities. I know at the time the subject matter raised some eyebrows, but today it would seem completely normal. Some of the comments they made shocked the audience, but in all honesty, they were saying what many seniors at the time were thinking, but afraid to say.

Well, all that has changed. More and more seniors are living the life they want.

Who has not enjoyed the antics of “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix?

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Check out the trailer…. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3609352/videoplayer/vi4150769177?ref_=tt_pv_vi_aiv_1

These characters are my fantasy idols; however, I do not plan to live vicariously through them. I fully intend to live my own dreams as much as my circumstances will allow me.  My remaining years will not be spent doing arts and crafts or playing Bingo in a retirement home. I want to try new things and see new places. I do not plan to sit back and watch others live their life while mine ticks away a day at a time. Remember the saying, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings”.

So try something fun or something you enjoy. Or join my friends and I for the weekend. Tomorrow we are getting together at 5 am to eat scones, drink tea, and watch the Royal Wedding; at 6pm we will be off to karaoke and dancing at our favorite pub. Sunday we have plans to see “The Book Club” at the movies.

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What are you doing this weekend?

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo