Paying myself back — or forward?

I started off the year kind of gangbusters with blogging, but soon fell off the wagon, as you know. But I didn’t want that last depressing post to be up here on top anymore. I keep praying for my family and friends and am counting on God and the medical system to take it from there.

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been thinking. The usual “What do I want to be when I grow up?” thoughts, only now “when I grow up” pretty much means “when I retire” — which who knows if I’ll ever really be able to. I just saw a commercial for an investment company (don’t have a clue which one), that asks people to write on a wall what they would do if they could do anything. The thing I noticed during the 30 seconds I was engaged was that so many people wrote down creative things. They’d make pies or be a florist or be a writer (! — I’m guessing not the kind of writer I am). So many people are just itching to do something that has nothing to do with traditional office/trade/factory work. The commercial basically said “Yes, you can get paid to do that — you pay yourself to do it with your retirement money.”

That’s a great way to think about it. All those years of working and paying bills (and yes, saving, because that’s a must) are so you can be in charge of your own destiny. Pay yourself to have the freedom to do what you really want. Because otherwise, you might still decide to be a florist, but are you going to work for someone else? Start your own shop? That’s still a business, and a competitive one I imagine. It’s hard work, even though your products are beautiful (and highly perishable). Same with pie baking — or any kind of food/catering business — not easy either. And a writer? Please. We all know how hard that is — and even harder to make any money at it.

So the bottom line, you need to be financially free to pursue your dreams, but that seems so unlikely. I read some sobering statistics yesterday about women and retirement in this article…I don’t think anyone envisions him/herself destitute or in a nursing home, but the sobering reality is that many of us will end up there. There’s also a slew of articles that say, don’t even think about retiring…that even after you reach retirement age, you should still plan to work at least part time.

It’s hard to think about that — that at almost no point in your life (unless you can’t physically or mentally do it anymore), you’ll have to be “on call,” responsible for doing something someone else thinks is worthy of paying you for.

It’s also hard to balance the idea of delayed gratification and saving more for tomorrow with wanting some rewards for hard work today — especially because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone and none of us is getting any younger. (If not now, when?)

I stress about money and saving all the time. I’m convinced we aren’t doing enough. It drives Mike crazy.

I also say just about every day that I want a vacation (the beach comes up a lot). That also drives Mike crazy.

How do you do it? How do you approach the live-today-(while-you-can)-or-save-for-tomorrow conundrum?

Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.
But other times it’s essential to take time off
and to make sure 
that your most important decision in the day
simply consists 
of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.
~ Douglas Pagels

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eMail as (lazy) memoir

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I had nearly 4,000 emails in my Sent folder that I needed to clean out — a chore I detest and obviously hadn’t done in a long time. I spent all day today, many hours of my last day off, going through and deleting around 3,200 of them, so far. Three thousand two hundred interactions with clients, colleagues, friends, family wiped away one by one.

It made me wonder how these interactions would have happened in the olden days — like 25 years ago. We didn’t use email then (did it even exist?). When colleagues and I needed to exchange information, we talked to each other, or called, or left notes on each other’s desks. We didn’t have voicemail; if you called someone who wasn’t at their desk, you called back later or left a message with an actual person. We all had little, check-the-box “While you were out” pads that made it easy to communicate — let someone else know that someone had come by to see them or that they had had a phone call from X about Y. We relied a lot on our memories of what was said in conversation or notes that we, you know, wrote by hand — no CYA email trail in those days.

And friends, family? We didn’t have instant access to share a funny picture or interesting article — except by fax, and no one did that. We talked by phone (but not when we were anywhere but at home or work, where the phone was) or sent cards and letters. Sharing a picture was a big deal — you had to send your only print from the roll you had to get developed or have copies made. A lot of people sent their film away by mail for processing because it was cheaper. You’d wait anxiously to see how the pictures turned out. A lot of them didn’t turn out so well — you might look silly, eyes closed or mouth open or hair askew, and you’d have to rip it up or hope no one would show anyone. If a card or letter someone sent you made you LOL, you might call them to say that, but more likely you’d have to write them back — and an LOL several days later just isn’t the same.

It’s a wonder we could function at all. What with having to walk uphill both ways to work in blizzards and all, too.

It’s also weird to think that what in days of yore would have been simple, easily forgotten conversations or phone calls or notes are today all countable and “rememberable.” Four thousand interactions over the course of several years recallable in an instant.

Imagine if you never deleted any. Ever. If all the email exchanges you ever had were there for the perusing. Of course, not the boring work ones you’d never want to see again. But the others — the chats with friends, the shared jokes and memes, the advice given and received. A little like a living journal. In my case, I had a lot of emails pertaining to my mom’s care, illness, and death. About our work to clean out the house, settle the estate, sell the house. I have some giving or getting advice from friends. I even have a few about 9/11 — written on or in the days following the massacre. Some of them, though painful to remember, I still couldn’t delete. Not yet; maybe not ever.

I don’t plan to let my emails pile up that high ever again. Not that many years ago, I was vigilant about keeping my Inbox and Sent mail to 400 emails each. That’s probably not feasible anymore given all the projects I need to track over time. But I won’t let it reach 10x that number again. It may be an easy way to document slices of life — an unconscious journal — but I don’t think it’s worth a day of my current life to relive them.

What you need to know about the past is that
no matter what has happened, it has all worked together
to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can
choose to make everything new. Right now.

~ Author Unknown