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Archive for the ‘baby boomer’ Category


English: Scanned image of author's US Social S...

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Next month my husband turns 65, an age that used to feel ancient to me.  That’s when people officially retire because they’ve reached old age, get their Medicare card to help with health care costs  and join the senior citizens’ club.  In fact, he became one of the 10,000 people each day who sign up to receive Social Security and Medicare.   Wow – think we’re experiencing a national entitlement crisis?

Meanwhile, where did all the years go?  He was 38 when we got married and somehow he’s still 38 to me.  He pretty much does everything now that he did then.  Come to think of it, I still feel 33, maybe 36, but certainly in my mid 30s even though the calendar year insists I’m 57.  57!

My mother always told me this would happen, that I’d feel like the same person inside regardless of the calendar year. Not everything’s the same though.  Back during my original 30s I worked constantly, spent a lot of down time shopping and enjoyed participating in the night scene.  These days I have very little interest in shopping and my drive to succeed has waned, making space for new interests to develop.

Sometimes I think I enjoy my life more now than back then, I feel more peaceful and comfortable with myself.  The thrilling highs come from different things now.  And I’m not talking drugs – then or now.  I’m talking about events that inspire euphoria.

Today’s baby boomers are yesterday’s hippy generation.  We’re still rebellious, forging new paths.  We don’t feel old at age 50.  We feel adventurous and highly conscious of good health.

Television shows don’t target the over 55 age group, but they’re behind the times.  We’re the demographic with the most expendable dollars and the adventurous spirit to try new things and go new places.  Travel companies are now recognizing that, so are magazines and beauty products.  Pay attention to greenways and notice the 50+ crowd on bicycles, roller blades, running and walking.  Advertisers are picking up on the trend and it’s high time.  Research finds that we’re exercising twice as much as earlier generations.

I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and the reality doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the anticipation did.  It’s still a little freaky that my husband will soon be 65, just like every one of his other age milestones stabbed me…. 50, 60, because he always hits the big number before I do, his age becomes my crisis.  So when it’s my turn, it’s no big deal.  Sort of like a dry run.

Here’s what we know… somebody turns 50 every 8 seconds.  People age 65 and older now exceed 35 million and growing.  Last January introduced the first of some 77 million baby boomers surging toward retirement.

America is growing older.

How do you feel about aging?

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According to a news story I just read, boomers are apparently the new favored children when it comes to divorce these days.  Their break up rates have more than doubled over the last decade and researchers expect that percentage to increase.  Right now one out of 4 divorces is a couple over 50.  To some extent, that’s surprising information.   After-all, you’d think that after so many years of understanding each other’s hot buttons and living through the early career days and the challenges of raising children that it would now be time to rediscover the reasons you fell in love in the first place.

LOL Just divorced. And no, that's not my car.

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From a different angle I think it’s cause for celebration.  Looking at it through a woman’s eyes (why not?), we are not the women our mothers were.  Societal expectations are, thankfully, different.  Career opportunities have expanded over the years for women and a lot of us are financially independent and independently minded.  We’re not looking for men to “take care of us,” but instead, to be friends with us.  Confidantes.  Lovers.  Sounding boards. And if that’s not working anymore, then it’s time to move on.

My parents separated when I was 15 and it was a subject not discussed outside the house.  It was taboo then and it made me feel like our family was the pariah of the neighborhood.  I adopted other families to hang around and fantasize about what a happy family would actually feel like.

One particular favorite couple was my girlfriend’s parents.  After synagogue on Friday night we’d walk back to their house to commence a weekend filled with family activity.  I loved her parents; her father was always flirting with her mother and it seemed to me like he adored the pants off her — literally.  We all read books together in the evening and her parents would engage in actual conversation about those books and even current events of the day.

Many years later when my girlfriend and I were grown and catching up over breakfast one day she said that her mother had “finally divorced her father.”  I was stunned silent, left with a gaping mouth full of bagel and cream cheese.  Shock soon gave way to deep sadness.  WHAT??  My heroes?  My role models?  What happened?  She laughed and said that the “lovey dovey act” was for my benefit and her mother would role play until I went home on Sunday afternoon.  That for years they weren’t getting along and that she’d finally found the courage to say no more.  My friend knew I’d be in shock, but it was time I found out.

That moment marked my rude awakening to the realization that people stayed together for the kids and endured the misery of their lives together until it could be changed.  And it was also the moment I was grateful for my mother’s personal truth of “no more.  This isn’t what I want and so I’m moving on.”

Coming from a broken home I can tell you that it does no favor to the children to live amidst vicious fighting and cold body language.  My parents rarely demonstrated physical affection or pleasure about being in each other’s company.  There was no warm sense of family in our family.  And it certainly taught me at a tender age that marriage was not aspirational.

Somewhat surprisingly, I am married and have pets for children.  We were together 8 years before tying the knot and now married for 26, but I can tell you that if it ever stops working for an extended period of time, neither of us would be interested in staying put.  That’s not to say that marriage isn’t worth working at.  It is and a healthy union requires a lot of work.  From both parties.  But there’s no doubt that I’d rather make it alone and enjoy friends, than suffer through a dead marriage.

So I say kudos to those boomers who find the courage to move on when it’s necessary.  There are much worse things in life than staying married to the wrong person.

What say you about marriage?

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The discouraged Nenene suffering from writer's...

I think I’m going through the phenomenon writers call writer’s block (although I just read a writer’s diatribe that it doesn’t exist.  He says if a writer can’t write, she’s not a writer.) Each time I sit down to write to an idea I’ve had, nothing but the first line comes out.  And when I push myself to continue, sentences form, sure enough, but they go nowhere with no point being made.  It’s maddening and it’s tiring.

It’s also unfamiliar to me.  As a professional developer of ideas that get concocted from thin air and build into television events or projects it stands to reason that the prolific creativity machine should be well oiled to avoid misfires.  It’s not.

Writer's Block

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This writing thing is a different medium.  And I’m not so bold as to actually call myself a writer; I’m not (see Mr. Writer expert?).  I’m practicing to become one.  To find my voice.  To develop a style.  To stumble upon a genre.  And to be honest, because truth-telling is one of those necessary virtues in non-fiction writing, which seems to be my preference.  At least for now.

After participating in a 4-week non-fiction creative writing series for women, I came away a little more practiced and fluid, but with no principles to stash in my back pocket to help with construction.  She said there were none.  Maybe that’s the case for creative writing.  But certainly there are things to remember when putting fingers to the keyboard with the intention of making the material interesting to people.

Barnes & Noble.

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As I write I’m sitting in the Barnes & Noble Cafe with a stack of writing and pop culture magazines to get my juices flowing.  This technique always worked during my TV years.  Bring a notebook, grab some magazines and books, peruse them and brainstorm new concepts.  And in fact, as soon as I sat down with my tall decaf and biscotti, this notion of spilling my guts occurred to me.  Maybe if I actually record my stuckness, I’ll become unstuck?

My years of television creation appealing to a mass public has taught me that if you want people to watch, you have to give them something they can identify with, become fascinated by, aspire to or become informed by.  And you have to target the right crowd.

Well my crowd is the boomer population, particularly boomer women with professional backgrounds because that’s where I am in my life.  Working to discover “next” that’s as exciting as what was.  And to share the process as I live life unencumbered by the daily routine of deadlines, expectations and management challenges.

But I digress.  My dear friend in California is in the throes of self publishing her first book.  How cool is that?  We worked together in radio many moons ago and she’s moved on to a number of things, one of which keeps her passion for writing alive.  I can’t wait to buy a copy.

For now, I’ll continue to muddle my way through.  I’m discovering writing to be an interesting challenge.  And I got a gig as a community columnist for our local daily paper.  I hope to make those pieces interesting.  And I really really hope I don’t experience this kind of obstacle with my deadline looming.  I have 3 in the can, so to speak, ready for tweaking.  Cross your fingers for me.

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In the meantime — tell me, how do you oil your writing machines?  Please oh please share!  Now on to my magazines!

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It’s autumn here in East Tennessee and it’s shouted its arrival in a big way.  I’m talking colors here.  Big, bold, vibrant, HELLO LOOK AT ME!  colors that stop you dead in your tracks to gawk at the amazement of Mother Nature.  And today was the perfect day to enjoy the full show in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall seems like such an oxymoron.  Trees pop with color in such a vivacious tribute to life and yet the glorious show is a prelude to death.  After a couple of weeks the leaves shrivel and drop to the ground into brittle debris, ultimately becoming fertilizer to new life.

This bold season feels like a metaphor for mid-life.  These are the years when many of us leave our professions behind to re-invent new lives.  To discover new passions, friends, experiences.  And in many ways I feel more alive now than the days I was engrossed in my paid working hours.

Work life was thrilling for me yet was surprisingly predictable in its unpredictability.  Make sense?  Every day we had a new show to produce or stories to write or projects to continue with the same constraints to face and paradigm to follow.  Every morning I knew what my office hours were likely to be.

Now each day offers a blank canvas to paint whatever picture comes to mind (metaphorically speaking since I don’t paint).  And I can invent what my next years may look like.  I’ve grown my hair longer, dropped a few pounds and have become quite active through bicycling, horseback riding, hiking and attending more yoga classes.  I feel like I’m on the cusp of something new.

Is autumn to winter as mid-life is to old age?  Could this time period be our final hurrah?

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Last week’s exercises in my non-fiction creative writing class were interesting ones.  We were asked to list obsessions and strong memories, then expound on them.  A collective sigh came from the four of us until the juices started flowing inspiring each of us to become absorbed in our unique internal lives.

Early on it became clear that this assignment would offer each other glimpses into who we are.  We met as strangers from different parts of the area and today we’d share intimacies – because of a writing exercise.

A single woman in her early 30s struggles with a driving desire to find herself, to one-day have the courage to leave her job of 12 years and follow her dream.  Trouble is, she can’t identify that dream.  Maybe this writing class will coax that passion to the surface.  Or maybe writing will help her understand why each new relationship ends up falling apart as she wonders on paper whether this current beau will stand the test of time.  She’s plagued by the need to compare herself to peers with husbands and children which feeds a certain panic in her soul.  Now we understand her a bit better.

The woman to my right obsesses about her weight and writing and, hopefully, earning money from her prose.  She used to be a teacher and grew very frustrated with the politics of education and students’ lack of interest.  She yearns for the day when the solitary hours spent putting thoughts on paper will be validated with a check in the mail.  She and her husband are retired and she struggles with the balance of taking care of him and the urge to spill herself into her fingers on a keyboard.

Then there’s the woman whose childhood trauma sparked a love for poetry.  Pouring her tortured heart onto paper somehow eased the pain of losing her mother when she was nine years old.  A drunk driver slammed head on into the family car while her mother was at the wheel.  While this girl waited outside the car for an ambulance to arrive she remembers hearing her mother gurgling, still trapped behind the steering wheel.  Those injuries proved fatal.  The father spent days in the ICU recovering from his physical injuries, though his heart never healed.  So that nine-year old girl and her siblings were shipped out to be cared for by others. Today this now grown woman has a deep story to tell and skimmed the shallow surface with us.

As for me, I wouldn’t say I have obsessions, per se, what I have are driving passions, one of them is horses.  Though I’ve never owned a horse, I usually find a way to be around them; lately it’s volunteering at a horse rescue where we rehabilitate neglected and abused horses.  This past week I also attended horse camp where we brushed up on our riding skills mounted on Paso Finos and Tennessee Walking Horses.  Their strides are smooth as velvet and much easier on the legs and back.

Eye of a Horse (Andalusian)

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They say that horses are windows into your soul and maybe that’s why I’m filled with emotion when grooming them.  Watching their powerful, graceful bodies prance around a pasture fills me with awe.

There are a lot more stories inside us waiting to be coaxed to the surface.  We humans are fascinating creatures – each with a unique story to tell to the right listener who extends a sincere invitation.

What are some of your stories?

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Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

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Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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