First, let me say, gardening is so much fun and so rewarding! It makes me look forward to spring with such enthusiasm! But that is not to say that there aren’t some MAJOR disappointments as well.
My greatest problem here at around 7,000 feet just north of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the critters that come out at night and champ off the flowers on my plants that are just about to bloom for the first time in a YEAR!
For example, my first few years I had the most beautiful Rocky Mountain Penstemons. These are from spring 2020.
Since then, every time I see a new crop is thinking about blooming they get eaten off overnight. I know I can cover them, but I somehow get convinced that this year will be different and then it isn’t. They even ate some of my native penstemons last night!I’ve also had very bad luck with Evening Primrose out here.
Slowly but surely I’ve turned to the mostly shrub-type plants that never get eaten and seem to love life here.
I’ve never had any problems with my Walker Catmint, here with a native Four O’Clock growing through it!
I love when my Jupiter’s Beard comes in for the contrast to all of that purple out there. I seem to almost always choose the purple or yellow plants. I have learned that any plant that is woody and herbal, the animals don’t eat, like lavender.
I believe our lives are a process of finding and confronting our true Self, and then slowly letting go of it as we age. Some might prefer the word ego in this scenario. I have had this message on my wall for decades:
What is the ego or sense of Self?
ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance, the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for a sense of personal identity.
The way I relate to my sense of Self is to know that as a child and young adult my ‘job’ was to develop my sense of who I was inside, what did I think and value? How should I treat others? How did others see me? This naturally leads to a strong sense of self-consciousness, sometimes painfully so. Then came the time to figure out what I planned to do in the world. How did I hope to change my world? These are the purposes of young adulthood up until our forties or so.
Developing a strong sense of self or ego is a good and necessary part of being human. There is nothing wrong with having a strong ego, but it needs to be regulated. Problems arise when ego affects your decision making process, turning you into a victim, or when it makes you feel superior to others in order to justify your bad behavior. A toxic ego is one that does not learn from bad behavior, but instead blames others, often descending into negativity, resentment, and even violence.
For the past twenty years, my spiritual path has been that of the second part of life. I have been searching for the strength to let go of self. A part of this process is simply getting comfortable with self compassion and death. Although we might think we have a strong sense of self when we are younger, if we are very honest we may find much self-criticism inside. This is all a part of the ego. Like we really did have the power to change any part of our world…
Being close to nature is your best path to realizing your place in the history of time. Please note, there are no other animals or plants that believe they are changing the world. There are no other beings that fear death. They know what their part is, to be born, to live and then die. I have found a gradual process of getting used to the idea of death is the best path for me. At first is was so hard to be with so I would push it away and deny its power. Since I started facing some powerful signs that I won’t be around forever (lung disease and brain injuries) in the past few years, my acceptance has grown like my garden outside my door, bright and beautiful.
I was reorganizing my retirement funds recently and that got me thinking: How are other retired Baby Boomers doing? In that process I learned about why we have fewer and fewer workers for highly skilled jobs…
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, make up 28% of the United States population, making them one of the largest living adult generations, second to millennials. In 2011, the first round of Baby Boomers—those Americans born between 1946 and 1964—turned 65.
From now until 2030,10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring every single day!
The COVID pandemic, shall we say, encouragedearly retirement. According to the Pew Research Center, the rate of retirement for Boomers accelerated with COVID-19, with nearly29 million Boomers retired in 2020, three million more than in 2019.
Seventy-five million Boomers are expected to retire by 2030, paving the way for what is now being called “The Great Retirement,” as opposed to the “Great Resignation.”
“The Great Retirement” is an unprecedented flood of retirees exiting the workforce earlier than planned, triggered by the pandemic which heavily affected those 60 and older. Whether it was to enjoy life, health concerns, or a changing work environment, this part of the workforce has seen an uptick in retirement. In spite of these numbers, many Boomers find it hard to retire. Why? Many baby boomers are worried about their finances. Nearly two-thirds expressed concern about not having enough savings to quit their job. Shockingly, at least to me, the median retirement savings of Baby Boomers today is just $144,000 to $202,000.
Health & Death Rate Among Boomers
The largest generation in American history, Boomers are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. What wasn’t foreseen was how long Baby Boomers would live. When the first Boomers were born, the average life expectancy was 63 years old. Among Boomers recently that was79 years, but that is falling.
Unfortunately we, as a generation, are not as healthy as our parents were at our age. Why? One culprit is obesity-associated chronic diseases caused by a gigantic dietary shift. Beginning in the 1950s we were introduced to fast, convenient, processed foods with plenty of additives and preservatives. Today we have increased deaths from chronic liver disease, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, along with poisonings all caused by addiction. I’m sure you have heard about recent death spikes related to opioid abuse, alcohol abuse, and heroin abuse. The implications of this epidemic are massive.
As we all know, addiction is a symptom of bigger issues—the underlying causes of addiction need to be treated. Our generation, known for questioning authority and seeking equality, has lived through significant family changes brought on from two-parent working households, increased divorce rates, increased career mobility, increased technological advancement, and increased psychological awareness. How have these factors impacted our long-term well-being?
As someone who lives in a poor, rural county in southern Colorado, whose average age is 55, I can say I have known many more people who have died here in the past 9 years than I have ever known before. It seems a fairly regular event to hear of another person’s death. Some move here to retire and find the higher elevation too much of a challenge (kind of like me). Many came here to die and do. We certainly have our share of addiction problems and depression. I now see retirement as more of a quality of life challenge. It isn’t about money, addiction or even how long I live, but more about spending my last years in appreciation for what I have right here before me everyday.
Somehow I never pictured myself breathless and brain damaged at age 67. ‘Disabled’ did not occur to me ever, until things started happening to me. It took me an amazing length of time to believe that I was having trouble breathing. In fact, I didn’t discovery it myself. A very observant MD in Colorado City turned to me once when we were there for Mike’s health and said, “Are your lips turning blue? Let’s do a walking test.” For those unaware, a walking test is a simple walk around a doctor’s office where they test your O2 level before and after your block-long walk. I flunked, dipping far below 90 and yet I still insisted this could not be happening to me. Recently we went through the same test with my brother John, and yes, he denied it, and now he’s enjoying his supplemental O2.
My point is, unless you are literary hit over the head with a new disability (like a head injury?) it is very hard to accept that you may have a big new problem. I struggled against using oxygen at home for quite a while. I simply could not believe it, plus we Carters are known for extreme stubbornness. Now I can only go a couple minutes without it.
The head injuries started in my fifties and who knows, perhaps they were connected with shortness of breath. I know my most recent concussion were related to being out of breath. I went to look for something, forgot my oxygen, and ended up passed out for the floor. Unfortunately Mike was gone for a few days so when I came to I had to crawl over to my bed and get up there to lay down. I never forgot my oxygen again!
The aspect of disability I find both surprising and annoying is when others find it natural or even necessary to feel sorry for me. Some old friends have even stopped communicating with me. Talk about feeling written off! When I heard there is a new TV show called “Not Dead Yet” I thought, that’s me!
What I would like to share with all of you who think I’m done or doomed (aren’t we all?) is that, yes, my brain has changed, but sometimes it feels like it might be for the better.
I know I may have sometimes sounded pathologically optimistic here, but these days I rather enjoy my present state of mind. When I’m sitting staring out at our incredible views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which I do a lot of, there is a certain non-reality that is a bit like being high without drugs. That I like. I also believe that in some strange way I may have become less judgmental and more intelligent by exchanging certain parts of my brain for a less precise and exacting attitude. Call it more flexible or easygoing, but I find that soothing. Perhaps my brain got tired of holding grudges.
Of course living with Mike has helped me a lot. I am definitely the worrywart in this partnership. We Carters are first-class worriers, expertly trained by a number of previous generations. I will never forget a few years ago when I was sitting in the living room listing my well-established list of worries for Mike. He had heard this list too many times, and I guess he was tired of it, so this time he sat back in his easy chair and said, “Who cares! Is worrying about these things going to change anything?” That made a lot of sense to my bruised and shaken brain…
Nine years ago this month, Mike and I drove down from Fort Collins to choose a few acres in Navajo to buy. We didn’t know much about this area, only that we loved how it felt to our suburban souls. It took us another year to build our passive solar home facing the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with Mount Mestas to our west.
I was reminded again early this morning why I love living here. I woke up around 6:30 AM to see an unobstructed view of a bright red sunrise to our southeast. This is BIG SKY country to me, where the landscape and the silence are the main characters! Every time I go outside in the morning I stop and feel astounded by the silence. This is what the earth used to be like. Maybe a few bird sounds, but otherwise perfect silence…
Sure there are also unattractive features to this area, but the land is encouraging and haunting all at once, and the summers are glorious!
Our first summer here we had so much fun exploring the back roads and back stories, like this dilapidated adobe schoolhouse slowly sinking back into the earth west of here…
or taking the train up to Fir to hear the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band play in a big mountain meadow.
When I first met Mike he said he wasn’t moving again until he could look at something besides the house across the street.
We found this cartoon in a magazine and laughed together about it. Then we went in search of someplace with truly ‘spectacular views.’
Who doesn’t wonder what it would be like to win the Powerball, especially when it’s on the news so much lately? Yesterday Mike and I shared a few thoughts on what we might do if we won. Would we stay here or move to our own island in the Caribbean? I know Mike would want to buy a number of new toys if we won, you know a new truck, a yacht, maybe a private jet, etc. Who wouldn’t?
One thing is for sure. I could probably quit complaining about having so few friends 😉
Money has never had a lot of meaning to me. Just so I had enough to live comfortably, I haven’t cared much about money. It has always taken care of itself in my life. My first husband was so focused on dollars, he could hardly think about anything else. I’ve always been good with money, but I somehow knew that, “Money can’t buy you love.” And love is what counts. This has only become more obvious as I age. Love is the meaning of my life now. Love is my destiny.
But, back to my topic, money. My fantasy if I suddenly came into billions of dollars is to share it with the poorest and most deserving Americans I could find. The trick would be finding them. I’m sure many would lie about their incomes if they even had one. I’m not sure how I would find them, but I would love to be a part of evening the scales just a little bit in this capitalist country we live in.
Would I immediately hire a lawyer and an accountant. Would I run out of money and eventually kill myself like urban legend suggests?
What Not To Do After Winning the Lottery
Don’t Tell Anyone. (Ha ha ha ha!)
Don’t Hurry. (Quick, before I die!)
Don’t Assume You Can Manage It. (Trust a lawyer and accountant you don’t know instead!)
Don’t Spend Any Money for Six Months. (Yeah, right!)
Don’t Quit Your Job. (Too late. Already accomplished.)
Don’t Wave Goodbye to Your Budget. (Budget, what’s a budget?)
Mike and I are introverts. We are very private people. We live our lives quietly with just a few friends and no attention quite happily. It’s a good life and something tells me the paparazzi might ruin our chosen lifestyle.
The one thing I try to avoid these days is stress. Living on borrowed time can do that to you. Come to think of it, winning the Powerball would be so awful! Imagine the stress! Just thinking about it boggles my mind and I don’t have a lot of mind left to boggle… Plus Mike and I don’t argue about what we want to buy next these days. Unfortunately having a billion or two might change that.
Come to think of it, winning the Power Ball might ruin everything we have now. But, as it turns out,
“you’re more likely to be hit by a meteorite than win the Powerball.” Especially if you don’t play!