As we Baby Boomers regain our footing in the workplace, some of us anticipate big leaps forward. More of us have been getting jobs. The self employed are not only earning more but have better quality business. The semi retired are doing less leisure activities and putting in more hours in professional ones.
To prepare to move forward, hopefully in a big way, those I have been talking to have all reported the same phenomenon: We are reaching back into the past.
One musician has contacted the cousins he hasn't seen since his parents died. Also, he started therapy to re-sort out those family dynamics.
A consultant in disabilities has been organizing mini reunions in the cities she visits for assignments.
I have nurtured relationships with college friends on Facebook and in email. In my middle age I avoided them like a plague. The past, I assumed, held me back. Now they provide useful reference points for why we have the opportunities and pain points we do now.
Why might this be happening? The musician is trying to avoid in the future what is keeping him stuck now. The consultant is finding she has to figure out how much intimacy she needs and how many hours of work time she is willing to trade off for it. Until now she was mostly all work. I had to forgive myself for the flawed person I had been and forgive others for what they had said or done at the time which hurt me.
Freed from regret and resentments about the past I find every day less of an emotional struggle. That could spill over to increased success in professional performance.
Amidst a world of broken people, especially women, Ingmar Begman found one who had been born whole. That is Liv Ullmann. That's why he chose her for a role in his film "Persona." Later they married. Here is an excerpt of the profile of Ullmann in THE NEW YORKER (sub. req.)
That wholeness might have been what has enabled Ullmann to keep blossoming. She turned to directing films late in life. In 2014, her film adaptation of "Miss Julie" will be out.
That's quite encouraging for us Baby Boomers who sense that all the pieces have finally come together. After so much social, political, and cultural upheaval so early in our lives, we were bound to come undone. Had I not completely shattered in 2003, I might not have had the need to really work on myself. Here is the story of that upheaval Download Geezerguts.
It took 10 years. But now that I am whole again or maybe for the first time, like Ullmann I am able to shift in any direction. Both professionally and personally. I know I am not alone. I bear witness to such coming together in my school chums from the Seton Hill University Class of 1967. They are real. They are kind. And they have no regrets. On Facebook we enjoy each others' company several times a day.
Is our business slow? Is the job search getting lackluster results?
Maybe the answer is that we Baby Boomers, who were experts in getting attention, have lost out touch.
However, we now have a lot of incentive to figure out how again to draw attention to our professional selves. In announcing drone deliveries Jeff Bezos sure did steal the show on "60 Minutes." It's irrelevant if that's years off and requires regulatory clearance. All that matters is that Amazon and Bezos are hot.
You bet, it's easy to slid into despair, rather than push ourselves to also come up with a grabber. Age bias might have knocked some of the confidence out of us. We may no longer believe that we can light a creative fire.
But, hey, I did that with a recent direct mail campaign for my executive communications boutique. I could have dragged out and finetuned the letter which had gotten results but didn't rock the universe. But I didn't. I took a risk. The header was provocative. The letter was short. I even managed to use "I" only once. Instead I leveraged the phrase "your clients." Those changes did the trick. My business is getting attention. An unintended side effect is that being noticed again makes me feel, well, younger.
When I was growing up, there was one neighborhood drunk and no suicides. At least none that we knew of. Now, there are plenty of neighborhood drunks and there have been two suicides since I moved into senior housing. Both were men and both took a flying leap out a window. In addition, in my local 12 step meetings there was one recent suicide. He ate a bullet in his car.
The puzzle isn't why there are so many more suicides. Any reader can catch up with the theories. Those range from the atomism of capitalism to sustained economic disruption. For me the mystery is why we still have such difficulty talking openly about it. On the elevator today, after the 2:30 P.M. suicide was announced, people tended to shy away from the subject. I wonder: Why is an increasingly commonplace way of death still a taboo in society?
If we could talk about it, maybe we could pick up on the signs of a potential one and prevent it. I remain haunted by those I couldn't help.
In his column in THE NEW YORK TIMES, Frank Bruni raises once again that issue: What is a family? Here you can take a peek.
This is old stuff to Baby Boomers. The first generation to go to college en masse, we broke away from the conformity of our parents and their parents. Holidays we figured out were more peacefully spent with buddies from college, then from graduate school. Through lots of psychotherapy we got the hang of tolerating our biological family but we remained wary of that alien force. Right now, through Facebook, those from the Class of '67 still are there for me - and I for them.
Along the way I also bonded with other types of families. Since 1981, when I entered a 12 step program in the Washington Metro area, I looked to other members for wisdom. This Thanksgiving I was with them, only in New Haven County, Connecticut.
Another of my families has been made of my animal companions. I shed more tears over their deaths than over those of my mother, father, and sister. If there is an afterlife, I am looking forward to being welcomed to it by dogs Nicole, Joshua, and Molly Mittens and cats Jonathan, Sarah, Rebecca, Sunny, Callie, Carlotta, and Jason.
Come to think of it, I rarely use the term "family." It fills me with angst, not comfort. At age 11, I took a look around at that nuclear unit and decided, "I'm out of here." I never had my own biological children.
Edgy for weeks and weeks, this 58 year old man in our 12-step group finally opened up over the Thanksgiving weekend.
For a laundry list of reasons, including rigid environmental regulations, he will be shutting down his business in a few months. He has been operating it for 30 years. He has no idea how he will continue to earn a living or pay for health insurance for his family and himself.
His is an increasingly familiar tale: Being squeezed out, yet too young for Social Security and Medicare. Ten years ago I was in the same pickle. Here is my version of that story Download Geezerguts. There is no way of sugar-coating the transition phase he will be entering. At best it will be disconcerting.
The worst case scenarios are bleak. But they don't have to happen. My cognitive therapist at the time mandated that I get a job, any job. That I did. I worked as a security guard in Sephora and Home Depot. Those two contract assignments got me planted firmly in the workforce and, because I did well, gave me confidence that I could earn a living. The pay was about $11 an hour. After a while I even got health benefits. And, as the cliche goes, one job leads to a better one. Eventually I started a new business.
No matter what, the aging who are economically displaced have to continue to bring in income. It doesn't matter from what. That's rule number-one. Rule number-two is to ask for help. That's what the man was doing at the 12 step program. My therapist billed me at a price I could afford. Rule number-three is to stay open. Opportunity might be right around the corner.
Things we said. Things we did. Are those what tore apart families?
This holiday season some of us Baby Boomers are feeling our mortality. Sort of like the narrator in "All Is Lost," we know we are going to die and reflect over our lives.
Part of those lives, of course, includes our biological family. We were the first generation to cast aside Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and all the Sibling Bears. We designated our friends as our primary support system. For holidays I spent the times with college and graduate school buddies, then members of 12-step programs. I rarely returned "home."
Now, I am out for blood. At age 68, I would welcome entrusting my end of life issues to a blood relative, not a lawyer or even a close friend. Before Thanksgiving, I sent a note to my younger sister Anne Murga-Ring. I indicated it would add to my current blessings to also have her back in my life.
We haven't spoken in 10 years. We haven't seen each other since our older sister Camille Klinga's wake in 2001. To demonstrate I didn't want anything from her I explained that my business was thriving and I was as well put together as I ever have been. Time will tell if she will respond. She has a right not to.
There are my cousins the Mikszas and Diglios in New Jersey and the Helliwells in Maryland. There are my nephews the Klingas in New Jersey. They would probably consider me senile had I contacted them. Former in laws in New Jersey through my sister Murga-Ring's marriage before this one had gotten in touch with me. We talked on the phone. That seemed enough for them. I would have liked more. I haven't heard from my Murga nephew Jonathan in about 13 years. He is my godson.
There is a force field created by family. I am on the outside of that. Maybe there is no way back in. My last good memory of being with my family is cooking dinner with my grandmother in a tenement in downtown Jersey City, New Jersey.
In the good old days we could depend on the heart giving out, hopefully through the Big Boom, to take us out. Now, we live in fear that we will lose our sense of self through memory loss long before any physical decline. There is plenty to fear and, according to ElderBranch, only $100 is spent on research for every $28,000 spent on treatment. Here is that article.
Since we are the first generation to live so long, we can't depend on our memories, no pun intended, of what family members suffered through. The reality is that few of us can calculate the odds of winding up losing our hold on reality. It's through memory that we put together our view of the world and sort through things. That turns out to be a double tragedy since most of us are acutely aware that we are without that ability.
For example, in the senior citizen complex in which I live, two women, once professionals, started to lose their memories. Their faces became etched with anxiety. One is now in a nursing home. The other is, she said, "waiting for her children to decide what to do."
To me, this mirrors the time when the AIDS epidemic started. No one knew what to do. There was neither treatment nor cure. Suffering was everywhere. Then activists effectively pushed for research. Now AIDS can be a chronic medical condition, just like diabetes.
The universe seems to smile on us who keep working, whether as employees or in our own business. Yes, it's a kind of voodoo, confirmed by research. I witness that phenomenon a lot, now that I am among the young aged. As long as we have to show up for work, we outsmart the worst of aging.
Take the corporate executive who was encouraged to take a package from a multinational corporation. He fell apart. Then he got the idea to study for his commercial driving license. At the transportation company, they loved him. Then he needed heart surgery. The medical doctor wouldn't give him the all clear for driving a commercial vehicle. Instead of transitioning to another kind of job, he stopped working. Today, he wanders around the house, annoying his wife and focusing on his aches and pains.
Another example is a woman who taught the unemployed aging basic computer skills. That's until she had to throw in the towel because of declining eyesight. Her children wring their hands about what to do about her now that she is losing her memory.
The lesson seems obvious: Don't give up working, If we can't continue to perform in one field, then find another.