Where Has That Half-Century Gone?

Hard to believe, but the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival is only one year away.  Many of us have, no doubt, begun to make arrangements to return to Bethel for the jubilee but, for those unable to join us, do not be concerned … this celebration is certain to be thoroughly recorded and reported upon; at least six film and documentary production groups from the United States and Europe have projects under way, with a number of print media series’ in development as well.

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The Psychedelic Bus on display at the Museum at Bethel Woods

Given the certainty of wall-to-wall coverage, it might not be a bad choice to simply remain home and watch all the hoopla from the comfort of a recliner.  If you intend to show up in person, though, you will likely notice a few differences from the last time we got together in that soggy meadow in rural upstate New York:

 

Clothing  Tie-dyed fashions seem never to have gone out of style, but I suspect that some of us now purchase our jeans with expandable waistbands.  And while huarache sandals will surely be in evidence, many of us may opt, instead, for comfortable walking shoes.

Alcohol and Drugs  Yes, we will be drinking some wine but, given the passage of time, we will probably be consuming a goodly amount of Metamucil as well.  And when it comes to drugs, any substances we consume this time will be less “recreational” and more “therapeutic” (think cholesterol, blood pressure and arthritis).

Traffic Jams  Unlike the region-wide gridlock we all endured in 1969, this time the roads will not be clogged with Volkswagen Beetles and dad’s station wagon.  Any traffic tie ups during this gathering will result from tour buses stopping to drop us off where Yasgur’s Farm used to be.

Mud   During our last get together, it was cool to get a running start and then slide in the ever-present mire.  That won’t happen this time; many of us have learned how hard it is to get back up once we have fallen and, besides, somebody could break a hip.

Public Nudity  Many of us have gained a few pounds and are less sure-footed than we were during those glorious days in 1969, so skinny dipping may be more challenging.  Be sure to take extra care climbing in and out of those local bodies of water.

So, with those cautions and nuggets of advice in mind, it is time to start some serious planning.  Somebody should call Wavy Gravy and ask him to make sure the Hog Farm bus is tuned up and ready to roll.  And for a culinary trip down “memory lane,” ask him to bring along the granola recipe he prepared as his iconic “breakfast in bed for 400,000” in 1969.

Finally, it will be important to have adequate medical services on hand this time.  Dr. Bill Abruzzi (the “Rock Doc”) achieved stardom for his treatment of “bad trips” at Woodstock and other rock concerts, but his talents (if he can even be located) may be less in demand this time.  For next year’s anniversary, organizers should line up medical staff with skills appropriate to the needs of those most likely to be in attendance … in other words, doctors with experience in geriatric medicine … who accept Medicare.

Rightsizing … One Year Out

Wow, that year certainly went by quickly! It is hard to believe that we just passed the one-year anniversary of our effort to “rightsize” our lives but, that being so, we got to wondering how we might measure the results of our endeavor. We had high hopes, of course, that the move from a house to an apartment would be a good one but, now that we are settled in, what is our level of satisfaction?

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey suggests that each of us “start with the end in mind,” and that is exactly what we did before starting down this road. In preparing for this transition, Bonnie and I discussed and settled upon who we are, what we wanted from life, and how we wanted to live now and into the future. With that established – and using that vision as our goal – we made a “leap of faith” … we sold our house, got rid of a lot of “stuff,” and moved into an Over 55 Active Retirement Community.

And the result has been better than we had any right to expect.

For example, one of our goals was to live in a comfortable and maintenance-free environment. Our apartment home surpasses all of these criteria … it is quiet, comfortable, roomy, and well-appointed. Further, on the very few occasions when a maintenance issue arose over the past year, it was handled quickly, professionally, at no cost and … here’s the best part … the work was done by someone else!

Moving to a new community always presents a range of potential social concerns: How will we connect with people? Will our new neighbors compare favorably with those we left behind? For us, any worries were erased immediately by the warm and welcoming reception we received from everyone we met. We now find ourselves among folks from a demographic niche much like ours and, to our delight, many of our new neighbors have interests and life experiences very similar to our own.

Individually, Bonnie and I have joined groups that bring us enjoyment and growth. For instance, once each week I go to breakfast with a band of ten-to-fourteen men whose backgrounds and accomplishments are amazing, while Bonnie has connected with a group of women who enjoy a variety of activities and interests. Together, we have befriended several couples with whom we enjoy going to lunch, dinner or area entertainment venues on a regular basis.

If asked to complete a satisfaction survey evaluating the way we “rightsized” our lives over the past year, we would have to rate the experience as “exceeded expectations” in every way. And while we celebrate having made this transition and what it has done for us, we continue to struggle with one nagging question:

Why didn’t we do this sooner?

Dying to Downsize

I have to admit … the book title really caught my attention: “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Make Your Loved Ones’ Lives Easier and Your Own Life More Pleasant.”

“Death Cleaning” … what was that all about, and what could it possibly mean to me?

Turns out the author, Margareta Magnusson, is really on to something. A resident of Stockholm, she makes the argument that “death cleaning” is not just about sorting through a deceased person’s belongings after they have passed on. Instead, she suggests this process as a permanent form of organization that can make each of our everyday lives run more smoothly.

Rightsizing … downsizing … getting rid of “stuff.” Whatever one decides to call it, the process of minimizing possessions can be liberating. And as Magnusson makes clear, undertaking this process earlier rather than later can also be a favor for those who survive us. None of us, after all, is immortal, so taking on this important task while we are still able makes perfect sense.

When Bonnie and I decided in early, 2017, to sell our house and move to a 55+ apartment community, we knew we had to get serious about winnowing through the mountain of baggage accumulated during our more than fifty years of marriage. Very quickly we determined that the most expedient way of handling this task would be to divide our possessions into four categories … take with … give away … donate … and discard.

Once we had decided upon what we would bring to our apartment, we offered the remainder to our children. We were pleased that they accepted a number of pieces of furniture, wall hangings and assorted other decorations and household items and, needless to say, we are thrilled that many of the things we have collected and loved over the years now rest in the homes of those who mean so much to us.

Magnusson’s book makes perfect good sense, and it is a delightful coincidence that Bonnie and I only recently did exactly what she suggests. Getting rid of a vast collection of unneeded items was cathartic, and is something we should have done years ago. We are pleased to report that we love life in our new apartment and community and, most especially, the reduced stress and increased personal contentment that come with living a less-encumbered lifestyle.

Getting “Rightsized” at Last

After more than fifty years of marriage, we took a “leap of faith” and made a series of major changes in our lives.  We also wrote a book about the process titled “Home Sweet Apartment … Getting Rightsized in Our Seventies.”  For senior citizens, making the willing choice to “Rightsize” their lives can be a challenge. Done smartly, though, the outcome can be deeply rewarding. As this book suggests, the journey begins with a clear vision of what an ideal lifestyle looks like and then, while keeping that goal in focus, taking intelligent steps forward. Using our personal experience, we describe how – while both in our seventies – we sold our home, moved to an “Over-55” apartment community, got rid of a lot of accumulated “stuff,” and fashioned a lifestyle of reduced stress and increased personal contentment. This book outlines steps for a comfortable relocation, strategies for letting go of “stuff,” managing the stress of a major lifestyle change, and making wise choices about what is important in life. This new book is now available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle versions.

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