Now that I’ve gotten used to being ‘old’…

An elder friend told me years ago, ‘old’ is always ten years older than you are right now! Actually, I still do struggle with the apparent fact that I am now 63 years old. In my mind people in their sixties are like my grandparents. They are retired, checked out of the work world. I barely remember my grandparents before they retired. I mostly remember them as elderly folks who hung out a lot watching TV. This all reminds me of how different and out of it I must seem to kids today.

I’m beginning to think I’m the last person on planet earth who has never owned a “smart” phone and never really needed one.

I still communicate with my friends through e-mail to set up dates, etc. It works and does not add all those additional monthly expenses for mobile phones. I suppose my thrifty nature has made it possible for us to retire early… But then you do run into the whole, “What do you do with your life now?” question.

First of all, anything would be better than my life back in 2004 when I lost my last job. I was driving a hour each way to Denver to work at Regis University Libraries. I swear I’m still suffering from back and shoulder pain from that daily trek down I-25 to a job I hated, with people who apparently hated me. After six years I got fired in a way that felt like the end of life itself.

That turned out to be the best thing ever! Yes, my life since then has been the perfect example of this Chinese parable from 2,000 years ago:

A Chinese farmer gets a beautiful horse, but it soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad!” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. 

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, but is then thrown and breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared...

Proving once again that nothing is as it seems at the time. From my first (and ONLY!) firing as a professional librarian at age 49, I learned that it’s best not to get too hung up on what happened today. Even something that seems like the worst EVER can turn out to be a hidden opportunity to improve your life!

320 W. 2nd St. Walsenburg

Our Walsenburg rental, an 100-year-old miner’s home!

My best example of this is four years ago when we moved down here to build solar in the foothills. When we first got here I was not certain this was such a great idea. Moving from an up-and-coming city like Fort Collins to a poor, quiet, rundown town like Walsenburg left me thinking,

“Is this a bad thing? Have I lost my mind?”

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

But resilience and patience got us through the difficult adjustment and building stage, and today I am supremely happy to be here now.

Lesson to Myself: Allow LOTS of time for personal adjustment around major life changes.

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One new hobby I took up after moving here, photography!

And yes, we do find excellent ways to spend our days, even in retirement. We have learned to enjoy a much slower pace with lots of time to just be. I have also learned how to truly live in the present.

If you can find a better way to live your life, go for it!

“There’s nothing sweeter than falling in love with the moment we’re given, the only one we have.”  — Marcia Smalley

 

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Midlife as a Chance at Rebirth

Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.      ~  Pema Chödrön

Find Your Reason Cover smallChanges outside of ourselves do have the power to shock us into seeking anew what is real within. They can cause us to finally see the need and find the courage to stop playing roles for others, and find complete honesty, integrity, and authenticity within. This is the time to finally find the strength to announce we can no longer be what everyone else wants or needs us to be. We could never save others, so for now we must put all of our energy into saving ourselves. We must stop being constantly other-focused, forever taking our cues from outside ourselves, and dig deep to discover what we want and need to happen in this final phase of our lives…

Since self-deception is a thing of the past, you can no longer count on that trusty outside armoring you have hidden behind for decades. Gone are the masks you felt so secure behind. As your authentic self emerges, it becomes ever more difficult to delude yourself with the illusions you have counted on for decades. They may have always worked before, but they are gone now.

Sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do

I was struck recently by a saying I heard in reference to horror movies:

Nothing is scarier than having no idea what is out there.

This seemed like an excellent metaphor for what can happen to us in midlife.

In the middle of our lives we may find ourselves ensconced in what seems like the safe and familiar, but somehow all of that apparent safety can begin to feel threatening. We may think: “I’ll just follow this safe route for the rest of my life. I’m too old to do anything different at this stage of the game.”

What I learned through my own experience is that sometimes playing it safe is the most dangerous thing you can do. Sure, you could stay in the same job, career, or relationship, living the same life indefinitely. That sounds safe, but is it?

Doing what you’ve always done will get you what you’ve always had. If that is all you are seeking in life, then go for it. But is there perhaps a small part of you that wants more? Is there a quiet part of your brain that begs to differ on this plan to never deviate from the safe and trusted path?

What might you be missing by playing it safe?

It is not uncommon for some life-changing event to cause us to question anew the entire plan we have laid out for our life. Maybe we aren’t even aware that we have a plan, until something screws it up. Sometimes just one more birthday can help us to reconsider our overall plan and open us up to options we never dreamed of before.

Nothing is scarier than the daunting realization that we have not even tried to live up to our full potential. Sure, we did what we were told and found some success in our endeavors. Being “good” definitely has its rewards. But do you ever spend time focused on all that you could have been and then realize that none of that will ever happen? If you are anything like me, all of those “details” can only be ignored so long.

In midlife we may realize, sometimes for the first time ever, that our time here on earth is running out. When it does, how will we feel as we look back over our lives?

The best thing about being alive today is that if or when we come to this realization and achieve this new perspective, we generally have more time to seek out the tools, the inspiration, and the necessary resources to do something about it. We can begin to plan a new and different future for ourselves, if we can find the strength and courage to dig in and live the dream!

Remember, the opposite side of the coin of fear is excitement. When was the last time you felt like anything could happen? When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel your full potential to grow and change and be all that you could be? This apparent crisis is offering you the opportunity of a lifetime. Do not miss out.

This is a brief excerpt from my book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife. It is only available in e-book format through Amazon. Feel free to contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com if you would like to purchase one of my last few paper copies.

 

Retirement Decisions: Urban versus Rural

Four years after our move to rural southern Colorado, I am remembering the difficulties I had making the final decision to give up city life for good. Here’s a piece I wrote five months after moving to Walsenburg and beginning construction on our new solar home:

Urban versus Rural: Decision Made!  November 23, 2014

My husband Mike and I have been in the process of transition into retirement in the past year.

320 w. 2nd St. Walsenburg July 2014

After five months living down south in a small rental in a very small town, we decided to go up north to visit family and friends this week.

What an eye-opening experience! I was absolutely SHOCKED to have this timely reminder of what life in the city feels like, and what it does to human beings.

Since we only have two stop lights in our entire new county, I had forgotten what it feels like to sit in traffic constantly. I experienced total culture shock, and Fort Collins felt like a foreign country to me.

I saw people everywhere waiting for something, a place to park, a place to sit in a restaurant, a chance to go through the next stop light, an opportunity to pay for their purchase. There was terrible traffic going through Denver in the middle of the day, constant noise, obvious air pollution we could even taste sometimes.

Do people really choose to live like this? I found city life so anxiety-producing and over-stimulating.

great Mike photo of snow and Spanish Peaks

It felt like such a relief to finally get back to tiny Walsenburg. The good news is I now know for certain that a city could never be my forever home. There is no doubt in my mind, I am so done with city life!

This essay and many more can be found in my Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Southern Colorado.

Why we decided to stay in Colorado for retirement

Another short entry from my Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

Amazing sunrise from our new passive solar rural home in southern Colorado

I wrote this on May 7th 2014:

Many of you may be like us, making some big decisions about where and when to retire. We just signed a contract yesterday to sell our home in Fort Collins, and move south in the next month or so.

When we started thinking about this major change, we chose to remain in Colorado for a number of reasons.

We were looking for inexpensive land to build a solar home with great views and a cleaner, quieter, calmer existence. We found that in the rural southern part of our state.

Then I just found out this week that in terms of medical care and finances we made a very good choice!

First of all, Colorado ranks in the top quartile in healthcare systems nationally, beating out all other western states. Then I saw a new Bankrate.com financial survey announcing the best states to retire to. Colorado ranks number two, only after South Dakota.

Here’s a quote from that article:  “Colorado gets above-average marks for cost of living, crime rate, health care quality and taxes. The Gallup-Healthways survey finds that the well-being of Colorado residents ranks among the highest in the nation.”

The first thing you need to know about Colorado is how different parts of the state really are. Most Coloradans live in what we call “the front range” cities like Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.  Then there are the mountains which are beautiful, but cold, snowy and generally an expensive place to live.

I have spent most of my life living in Colorado Springs, Boulder and Fort Collins, and to my mind, a city is a city in terms of their ever increasing cost of living, overcrowding, traffic, pollution and quality of life. After living the past nineteen years in the Fort Collins area, I can say these are our worst problems, and they are not going to get any better ever.

Mike at home

Mike is ecstatic to move out of the city and have this view everyday!

The rest of the state is rural and quite different than “the front range.” The eastern plains are mainly small farming communities and the mountains have few good job opportunities. We have chosen to put down new roots in a rural area west of Interstate 25. We have found the perfect perch for our custom, passive solar home. 

Postscript: I would only add that the average household income for some place like Fort Collins is near $60,000 now, while the average down here in Huerfano County is around $33,000. Colorado exhibits quite a wide range of income levels. You don’t need to be rich to live here, only in the big cities like Denver, Fort Collins, etc.

The hidden purpose of my new memoir: Convincing your pardner to love rural!

I decided to write a memoir of the process Mike and I went through around age 60, as we were going through it. I thought, we can’t be the only ones thinking about leaving city life behind for retirement, hoping to find a quiet, peaceful sustainable life in some beautiful rural area.

horsetooth in summer

Horsetooth Reservoir up above Fort Collins, Colorado!

As we put this plan into action and bought three acres west of Walsenburg to build our passive solar home at the beginning of 2014, I discovered that Mike was MUCH MORE CERTAIN than I was about this whole plan! He felt certain that he wanted to leave the city behind regardless of our old friendships back in Fort Collins, and the services and predictability of city life. This plan was suddenly coming together far faster than I could assimilate! I knew I loved visiting down south, but was I ready to give up everything I knew to move there?

320 w. 2nd St. Walsenburg July 2014

Walsenburg rental we lived in while building our home west of here

After we moved into our rental for the building process, I learned that many wives felt the same way initially about pulling up their roots and going completely rural. The men seemed to know what they wanted, but the women were more careful or hesitant to move to a rural area. Much like I felt at first that our new homestead was rather “isolated” other women I met felt the same. Luckily I totally trusted Mike’s sense of place and his unique abilities to make this home the best of my entire life.

But I just realized yesterday that my memoir is especially suited for wives or partners who want to move somewhere wild and rural, to show them the process I went through. I certainly changed my mind as the building went on…

At first I was so scared and uncertain of this choice we were making, mainly because we needed to sell our suburban home to afford the construction of our new solar home. There was really no way to go back on this deal if I ended up not liking it! It did feel really risky to me, but not to Mike.

morning sun on comanche drive

Our new home at sunrise!

I found that very quickly after we moved into our new home about one year after moving to Walsenburg, I loved it here. The silence, the natural beauty, the amazing sunrises and the big sky feeling… what’s not to love about that?

It just took me a while to adjust my vision and expectations and QUIT WORRYING SO MUCH ABOUT EVERYTHING!

So, for any of you who want to convince your pardner to move to a more rural part of the country. This book might really help!

Why we moved to the country to retire

For some reason this spring I keep flashing back to four years ago when we were still living in suburbia in Fort Collins and preparing to move down here to build our solar home…

Here’s an excerpt from my Memoir of Retirement:

memoir of retirement 2016 large

I saw a stupid retirement TV commercial last night that really got me thinking. The question was:

Can you keep your lifestyle in retirement?  

Say what? It suddenly struck me that this may be the most important difference between those of us facing retirement in the next few years. I for one have NO intention of keeping this lifestyle. If we did, what would be the point of retirement?

My dream retirement involves escaping this lifestyle! I feel that I have become ‘metro-fied,’ and I’m now more than ready for a peaceful escape from my present lifestyle.

I have lived in metropolitan areas for most of my adult life, for access to good jobs. What I have observed is ever increasing crowding, pollution, traffic and aggressive behavior.

beginning to build on the slab comanche drive

Construction begins on our new solar home facing the Spanish Peaks!

What I now long for is a quieter more peaceful existence with just a few people per square mile, where we can enjoy a friendly, caring sense of community; a place where we can make new friends through our daily lives.

We know and accept that this will involve a major lifestyle change, and we are ready for that. No traffic sounds great to us in exchange for less shopping convenience. Valuing and having time for new relationships is what we seek, not more of the same overcrowding, air pollution and road rage.

As I sit in the constant traffic in Fort Collins or Denver these days, I can only think, “This is never going to get better!” People will continue moving here and traffic will keep increasing every year, and I do not want to spend one more precious moment of my life sitting in traffic.

We want out of this lifestyle, the sooner the better!

Postscript four years later…I WAS SO RIGHT ABOUT THIS!

 

A New Year, A New Photo Essay

View from our land

Retirement may suggest lifestyle change for some, but how many are willing to take on any real risks at age 60? Enter Mike and I, the quiet revolutionaries. Four years ago this month, we drove down to southern Colorado to purchase a few rural acres of pinon-juniper woodland west of Walsenburg.  Mike’s dream had always been to construct his own passive solar home with amazing mountain views. This was our chance to make that dream come true!

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our nice  home in suburban Fort Collins, and took off to live in a 100-year-old rental home in Walsenburg, while constructing a new life twenty minutes west of there. Crowning ourselves the “NEW Old Farts,” I began sharing this retirement adventure with the world in October 2014.

Laura and Rasta the view 2014

Although my husband was a true believer from day one, this all felt like a gigantic leap-of-faith for me. With housing prices rising quickly in the metro areas of northern Colorado, I saw little chance of changing our minds later to return to the city if this didn’t work out. So I made myself believe in my relatively new husband’s vision, and you know what? He was right.

Three and a half years later, after too many doubts and incredible challenges to my idea of who I am and where I belong, I am now quite content in our country solar home looking out each morning at the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My days are filled with supreme quiet and astounding beauty. I have also found a few good friends, a yoga class I like, and all the books I wish to read and movies I wish to view through the La Veta Public Library.

snowy west peak with comanche home in foreground

The view from our new solar home!

I find my need for distractions has dwindled. No, I do not miss city shopping, traffic, stress, noise or air pollution. In fact going into a city of any size is now the perfect reminder that I made the right choice for me. I have finally learned the power of living in this present moment. With so much more available to me and few distractions, I now have the time, energy, and awareness to fully appreciate the world around me.

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Sunrise that occurred while writing this post…

We moved here for a number of reasons: To live close to nature, to try passive solar living, to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives, and to find a far more peaceful, healthy and less expensive lifestyle than cities could offer us. We have received so much more by choosing to live in this beautiful, quiet place where life is luxuriously slow and overflows with simple pleasures.

Would you like to know more about our adventures? Check out my new memoir!