Retirement.

Two triggers came to me on the same day which made me suggest this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday post. Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the same topic.

The first was this cartoon in one of the daily newspapers that I read every day.

Luckily for me, I did not have a son like Calvin to make me surly during my working days and in any case, those days were not like what they are today.  We did not have to spend so much time commuting to and from work nor were we under the kind of pressures that today’s employees face in work situations.

The other was a WhatsApp message sending me this link to a post on Facebook.

Again, luckily for me, my old friends continue to be my friends and though the number is reducing there are still enough to keep my mind occupied with them as well as in reminiscing about the good old days.

Having started my working career at an unusual age of 16, by the time I had reached my mid forties, I had decided that I should retire by the age of fifty. This was so that I could see a lot of India and some parts of the world accompanied by my wife. For various reasons I was unable to retire at that age but was able to at the age of 52. Not bad, I thought but, life had other plans. Again due to various reasons, I was unable to implement the plan to travel and so was sort of drifting around when life intervened again and pulled be back into corporate life on three different occasions. I finally retired from corporate life at the age of 62. I did have some gaps between assignments during which I also underwent two major surgeries and tackled some major domestic issues.

For the past 14 years, I have lived a life of a retired old reprobate as so affectionately termed by my dear brother. I have not had any retirement blues as many of my friends have had though I did go through some difficult times being a full time care giver on two occasions since the retirement.

My retired life revolves around a lot of reading and a daily dose of solving crossword puzzles. This blissful existence is interspersed with reunions of various kinds about which I have blogged elsewhere, meetings with like minded reprobates in Pune where I live and visits to or from friends and family.

I am one of those blessed seniors who still has company at home in the form of his son and daughter in love plus two very affectionate dogs. To add spice to the life, two alley cats have also decided to adopt us and keep visiting us to ask for snacks at frequent intervals. Hardly ever a dull moment!

It helps that social media like Facebook and WhatsApp have brought many friends and family closer to me and so, I do not find myself at loose ends ever. The only exceptions are when due to public holidays, I do not get my daily dose of news papers and crossword puzzles when I have to depend on additional reading to pass the morning hours.

Wellbeing.

This is an actual exchange of messages in WhatsApp between a dear friend who has got a full head of hair but, who thinks that I enjoy life despite being blessed with just a friar’s fringe. Please click on the image for a larger resolution.

That exchange got me to suggest this topic for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog post when Shackman and I write posts on the same topic. Please do go over to his blog to see what he has to say about the topic.

“Well-being amounts to more than mere happiness, and involves a wide range of personal and social domains, new research suggests. Psychologists say that positive relationships and a sense of meaning and purpose in life are crucial to genuine well-being.”

~ British Psychological Society (BPS)

Whenever someone asks me if I am happy in my present status of a retired person, I inevitably request him to ask about my wellbeing rather than whether I am happy as happiness is only a small part of wellbeing. I inevitably add that I am flourishing or, that I am on top of the world or some such phrase. I came to the conclusion that I was more than just happy in my situation after I read Martin Seligman’s “Flourish”, which incidentally was gifted to me by a very dear friend who was closely monitoring my mental health when I was going through a particularly stressful period some years ago. Reading the book essentially pointed out to me that my stress was of a passing nature which was being handled well by me. Other than that particular aspect of my life then, my life otherwise was what could be easily called enviable by others.

Seligman’s PERMA is simply this.

Here then is well-being theory: well-being is a construct; and well-being, not happiness, is the topic of positive psychology. Well-being has five measurable elements (PERMA) that count toward it:

Positive emotion (Of which happiness and life satisfaction are all aspects) – what we feel: pleasure, rapture, ecstasy, warmth, comfort, and the like. An entire life led successfully around this element, I call the “pleasant life.”

Engagement – is about flow: being one with the music, time stopping, and the loss of self-consciousness during an absorbing activity. I refer to a life lived with these aims as the “engaged life.”

Relationships – is about how well we are connected with our family, friends and society.

Meaning and purpose – Meaningful Life consists in belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self, and humanity creates all the positive institutions to allow this: religion, political party, being Green, the Boy Scouts, or the family.

Accomplishment – is the way of reflecting on the attempts of doing something, and the degree in which it provides a positive sense of accomplishment or achievement.

No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it.

I believe that I am a walking proof for someone who is flourishing as, in all the five elements, I will score high.

Contentment.

I believe that I am a contented person. I have few wants and they have been provided in adequate measure for me and I am ever grateful for that. That I am at my twilight years helps where nature makes it easier to be content with one’s lot.

I was not always like that and like most humanity I went through various stages of life when “more” was the driving mantra till nature decided that I had had enough and put the brakes on. I only wish that it had in a different way but, that is for another blog post.

If someone were to ask me to describe my lifestyle, I would take two styles. The easier to understand one is the Western metaphor of “going through life like a homeless alley cat, living from day to day, taking it’s pleasures where it can and dying unnoticed.”  Except that, I do have a home and the pleasures I want are very simple and door delivered, like my daily dose of newspapers and crossword puzzles plus enough books to read. I also have serious doubts that I will die unnoticed, not that it would matter when I do.

The other style would be my following the eight fold path of yoga that we in India call Ashtanga Yoga.

In the second limb of Niyama, the second “do” is “Santosha – contentment, acceptance of others, acceptance of one’s circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self.”

At least one reader is very likely to comment that I am aiming for sainthood and I would simply smile and respond with “no, just following a proven system that guarantees that one can live a life of joy. I am sure that the same person would grant me that I am by and large joyful! I am no saint and I do slip but it does not take a great deal of effort to revert to my idea of normal which is being peaceful and joyful.

Believe me, it is easy to live a life of contentment.  Any one can.

I have suggested this topic for this week’s Friday 2 on 1 blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same topic.  Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to read what his take on the topic is.  Thank you.

Gratitude.

The idea for this week’s topic for our weekly 2 on 1 Friday blog post came when I was musing over my life while having my tea, early in the morning, sitting on my comfortable chair in our verandah, enjoying the fresh morning activities in our garden as well as watching the passing parade outside the garden.

There was much to be grateful on that particular morning as the previous evening I had had an attack of gastritis. Earlier in the day, I had over indulged in a favourite sweet dish called Mawa Jalebi that Ranjan had brought home from a Sweet Shop adjacent to the office of one of his clients. Late in the evening, I started feeling uneasy and by 9.00 pm was in great pain below the ribcage and despite taking some readily available antacids from the medicine chest, I was not getting any relief. Ranjan stepped out to check and found that our family doctor, whose clinic is just across the road from our home, was still open for consultation. I rang him up to check if I could come over. He was just about to close shop but, asked me to come over and I landed up at 9.45 pm at his clinic. He examined me and gave me the assurance that I will feel comfortable soon, dispensed some medicine, gave me an injection and I returned home. I started feeling better almost immediately and by 11.00 pm was fast asleep.

I said to myself that morning that, I was grateful for such a considerate son who brought my favourite sweet dish, I had medicines at home for emergency treatment, I was able to consult my family doctor despite the hour being late, at a clinic that was just across the road from my home, and was able to comfortably sleep the pervious night after having spent a very uncomfortable evening.

That reminiscing led me to consider how many things that I was grateful for in my life at that point of time and I drew up a list as follows.

1. A series of developments led me to settle down in Pune and buy a very comfortable home when I had had no plans to do that before those developments. All that happened after our moving to Pune in 1990 in this home, were, experiences that had brought me to this stage of life in my late seventies where, I can comfortably look back at my life and be content. Just imagine, my bank, hair dressing saloon, pedicurist, doctor and grocer are all just across the road from my home. I have many restaurants very near us where I can choose from a wide variety of cuisine to go to, or, order for home delivery.

2. I have a devoted son and a daughter in love, who mollycoddle me and spoil me silly.

3. Despite both hip joints having been replaced and revised twice each, and in addition, afflicted with COPD, I am able to live a comfortable life if not a very active one. I have a home that provides me with comfortable furniture and ambience that allows to live such a life.

4. I have an extended family who support and cheer me almost on a daily basis thanks to modern social media and telephony.

5. I have a wide circle of friends from all over the world who are in regular touch and, who too,  cheer me up considerably.

6. I have enough resources to indulge in my passion for solving crossword puzzles and read.

7. I am blessed with very loyal and efficient help who have been with us for decades and who are now part of our family. They are available to be summoned on a 24/7 basis and that is a great feeling of security when, my son and daughter in love, take the odd vacation and, I have to be alone at home.

8. I have two dogs at home who seem to have ESP and come to be next to me whenever I feel a bit melancholic.  They act like pick me ups that act magically and the mood changes almost instantly.

9.  There are many more smaller things in my life about which I am very grateful, listing of which will however bore my readers.

Let me therefore share the biggest development for which I am most grateful.  It was my doctor ringing me up the following day after my consultation, to check how I was.  When he found me quite cheerful and back to my normal flippant self, he said -” You are very lucky that it was not a heart attack which I had to eliminate first in my examination, as you had pain in your chest.”  I quipped – “Thank God that it was only a fart attack!”

Are you surprised that I am very grateful for a naturally endowed with, sense of humour?

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic.  Thank you.

 

Healthcare – A Right Or A Privilege?

This Friday’s 2 on 1 blog post’s topic has been chosen by Shackman. I am sure that the recent spurt of anti Obama Care developments in the USA must have weighed heavily on his mind when he chose the topic. Being an Indian, I am concerned with what happens in India where we have a long way to go to extend full health care benefits and I use every platform to propagate my views which are not original but, practical any way.

Regular readers of my blog posts know that one of the credos by which I communicate is “Why reinvent the wheel?” My politics and economics is conditioned by A F Hayek. I would simply quote him from two sources to buttress my view that Health Care Is A Right that should be given to every human being.

“All modern governments have made provision for the indigent, unfortunate, and disabled and have concerned themselves with questions of health and the dissemination of knowledge. … There are common needs that can be satisfied only by collective action and which can be thus provided for without restricting individual liberty. It can hardly be denied that, as we grow richer, that minimum of sustenance which the community has always provided for those not able to look after themselves, and which can be provided outside the market, will gradually rise, or that government may, usefully and without doing any harm, assist or even lead in such endeavours. There is little reason why the government should not also play some role, or even take the initiative, in such areas as social insurance and education, or temporarily subsidise certain experimental developments.”
(The Constitution of Liberty of 1960 Pages 257 and 258.)

“There is no reason why in a society which has reached the general level of wealth which ours has attained [NW note: Hayek was writing not in prosperous post-war America, but in war-torn, austerity-ridden Britain in 1943] the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom. …. [T]here can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody. … Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individual in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision.
“Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. There are many points of detail where those wishing to preserve the competitive system and those wishing to super-cede it by something different will disagree on the details of such schemes; and it is possible under the name of social insurance to introduce measures which tend to make competition more or less ineffective. But there is no incompatability in principle between the state’s providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom.
“To the same category belongs also the increase of security through the state’s rendering assistance to the victims of such ‘acts of God’ as earthquakes and floods. Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.
“There is, finally, the supremely important problem of combating general fluctuations of economic activity and the recurrent waves of large-scale unemployment which accompany them. This is, of course, one of the gravest and most pressing problems of our time. But, though its solution will require much planning in the good sense, it does not — or at least need not — require that special kind of planning which according to its advocates is to replace the market.

“Many economists hope, indeed, that the ultimate remedy may be found in the field of monetary policy, which would involve nothing incompatible even with nineteenth-century liberalism. Others, it is true, believe that real success can be expected only from the skillful timing of public works undertaken on a very large scale. This might lead to much more serious restrictions of the competitive sphere, and, in experimenting in this direction, we shall have to carefully watch our step if we are to avoid making all economic activity progressively more dependent on the direction and volume of government expenditure. But this is neither the only nor, in my opinion, the most promising way of meeting the gravest threat to economic security.

“In any case, the very necessary effort to secure protection against these fluctuations do not lead to the kind of planning which constitutes such a threat to our freedom.”
(The Road to Serfdom, Pages 148-149)

Please go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the subject. Thank you.

Waking Hours.

“The eternal problem of the human being is how to structure his waking hours. In this existential sense, the function of all social living is to lend mutual assistance to this project.”

~ Eric Berne.

A classmate of mine who was in his own business till age finally caught up with him handed over the business to his son and retired some six months ago. He however kept going to the office till his son finally told him to either stop or take the management back from him. He finally stopped going to work and came to find out from me how I manage to pass my time in retirement.

Yakob has been part of my family’s life since December 1990 when he came in as our gardener and handy man.   Yakob was working as a peon in an establishment near our home and his employment with us was for before office hours.

Yakob hit the age of sixty by the end of February this year and had to retire from his position from the establishment where he was working.  Since then, he has visibly deteriorated from a cheerful and happy go lucky fellow to a listless and cheerless individual.  No amount of my trying to cheer him up helps.

Both these cases are typical of many retired people who do not know what to do with themselves during their waking hours.

To the former, I explained how I occupy myself with so many things that I find little time to do other non routine things. He just could not understand how I could read so much, solve crossword puzzles, blog, WhatsApp and so on as he never had the time to develop such or other interests during his working days. He left as disheartened as he was when he came in.

To the latter, I am trying to find some re-employment through other friends and hope to find something soon.

Retirement can be brutal if one had not developed some interests other than career related ones while still working.