Looking Back: Impact of Experiences at Age 20

Listening Witness Team 1966

It is mid-summer in Nashville, TN.  It is hot and humid and has been since the beginning of May.  There have only been a handful of days since then with a high temperature below 90 degrees.  I remember another hot summer when I was almost 20 years old, living for 3 months with a group of 5 other college students in Chicago, Illinois and how the experiences of that summer transformed my thinking and my life.

I thought about that today after finding an article I wrote after that summer of 1966 that was published in my hometown church newsletter.  In the article to the people in that Lutheran Church in Stoughton, Wisconsin where I grew up, I tried to express the impact of that astounding experience in my life.  What is most striking to me as I read it is how it speaks to our realities in 2018 far more than I would have expected.  52 years later and the issues are sadly similar, even if the specifics have changed somewhat.  Here is what I wrote (I have not changed the language – this was considered proper usage in 1966):

FROM OUR YOUTH

Listening, really listening to other people, is hard work. Because of the multitude of sounds constantly pounding against our ear drums, we have all but lost the ability to really hear and understand what people are trying to tell us. This includes us in the church who have, especially in the urban areas, failed to listen to the needs, wants, loves, and fears which people are crying out to us.

 

In an attempt to correct this, the Youth Department of the ALC (American Lutheran Church) sends Listening Witness teams of between four and six ALC college students into various congregations for the summer to learn to listen and begin to teach members of the host congregation to make listening a way of life so that they can be part of a true servant church.

 

This past summer I and five other Luther College students were in a congregation on the southwest side of Chicago. We were an integrated team situated in an all-white, lower-middle class neighborhood and congregation, one block from the Negro neighborhood.

 

Although we often found it easier to see things that were taken for granted by the congregation, we also had to guard against fast misjudgments and rejecting people and ideas because they were different from our own before we understood the reasons behind them.

 

We encountered much blind prejudice, within and outside of the church. We were told that ‘nice’ girls would not be part of such an integrated team and it wasn’t ‘proper’ for us to walk down the street with Negro boys. We had to change residences because the Negro member of the team walked us to the house, and the residents feared their daughter’s reputation would be ruined. Several boys refused to take part in a communion service after our Negro team member did, although they treated him as a buddy otherwise.

 

As a result of the summer, I have a much clearer picture of what the Church of Christ is and what it can and should be today. If we learn to listen and serve and love all as the Lord of the Church did, that Church can create a brotherhood which glories in human diversity. If we remain self-centered, cling blindly to tradition, build barriers between people, and ignore individual humans by stereotyping groups, we will aid and encourage hate, discrimination, fear and everything contrary to the Gospel of love we claim to believe in.

 

This applies here in Stoughton as well as in Chicago or any large city – being a Listening Witness must be a Christian’s way of life. We must listen to what is said, not what we want to hear or think should be said, and then witness to the situation in Christian love, not self-righteous judgment.

 

— Carol Brusegar  ( From The Ambassador newsletter of Christ Lutheran Church, Stoughton, Wisconsin, December 1966)

 

What have the milestone experiences been in your life? You may find some treasure in them!

 

In 1966, a number of significant things occurred in the civil rights movement. A chapter of this book is specifically about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “going north” and specifically the events in Chicago that year.
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

 

Losses, Closures, Lessons

LossChange is a constant in our lives. It happens on many levels and in many ways. The passage of years in itself changes us physically, mentally and emotionally. The people around us, by choice or habit or situation, change us. The family we have – biological and chosen – change us. The jobs or professions, the organizations we align ourselves with and the places we live all impact us.

We make choices and decisions because of our situations, and those choices and decisions move our lives in different directions and change our futures. Many times, we look back and see losses that precipitated our decisions – and losses that resulted from those same decisions.

As we move into and live in our 3rd Act, it can be helpful to look back at some of the major changes we made and the role of loss in those changes. Then we can look at closure if it is needed in those situations, and examine what we learned in the process. This is not to ignore the gains and the positive things that initiated the change, or those that resulted from the change. Instead, the purpose is to see if there are “holes in our soul” from these losses, bring closure to them, and to see what we can learn.

Here are 5 steps to take that will provide some insight as you examine a situation:

1) What was the loss that pushed you toward a decision or sped up implementation of a decision?
2) Describe that loss in terms of its impact on your emotions, self esteem, and sense of accomplishment.
3) Do you still have feelings about that loss?
4) What did you learn from the loss and from your decision based on or hastened by it?
5) From this distance, what conclusions would you draw about how you handled it and what the eventual outcome has been?

Think of one situation in your life where loss was involved – either it pushed you toward a decision or it caused you to move more quickly to do something you had already intended to do.

Walk through the 5 steps with that situation in mind. Write down your responses and thoughts. What insights come to you? Consider doing this with other situations that come to mind.

I hope you will give this tool a try as you move into the next part of life. Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

6 Things You Bring to Your 3rd Act

Transforming your years after 50, sometimes called our 3rd Act,  is a journey of awareness and action. As you look forward to, enter or are in the midst of these years, it is helpful to look at what you bring to this stage of life.  Identify, examine and decide what to do with things that either can sabotage your dreams or enhance them.  Each of the topics below is covered in more detail in one or more of the posts in the category “What you bring with you to your 3rd Act.” Click on that above (right below the title) and they will all be on one page.

Please take advantage of the free report, REINVENT YOUR LIFE that is available. Just let me know where to send it in the box in the top right of the page.

 

Transforming Your Years After 50: Recapture Dreams that Still Excite You

Dreaming new dreams as you are transforming your years after 50 is an invigorating process. (See Dreaming New Dreams)

There are other dreams from other parts of our lives that may be worth rediscovering. Perhaps this is the time to make them come true. They may be ideas or possibilities that are big or small. They may be skills, hobbies or experiences or just things about which you want to learn.

What were your talents and interests as a child? What did you want to do and be when you grew up? Think back to childhood and see what you find, first in your elementary school years. Where was it? Imagine being there again – that will help you recall those things that may be so deep in your memory. For me, I attended a one-room school house in southern Wisconsin. There were around 30 students in 8 grades, all in one large classroom. I lived with my parents and two younger brothers in a large house on an acre of land just outside a small town. In that place and time, what you were interested in, what did you excel in, what hobbies or activities did you spend time doing? Do you remember wishing you could do something that wasn’t possible then but might be now? Jot down what comes to mind.

Move on into your high school and young adult years. Think about the same questions and jot down your answers. Are there any patterns? Is there anything that stirs up old emotions that you’d forgotten about? Particularly look for things that make you think, “I wish I had done that” or “I’d still like to do something with that.”

Now take a quick scan of your adult years and look for the discarded or submerged dreams and hopes. Make a list of things you had wanted or intended to do or be that didn’t happen. Alongside each item, write down one or more reasons that it didn’t happen. It could be a choice you made, or that someone else made for you. It could be that it just dropped lower on your priority list when you moved, or got married, or had children. Perhaps the resources to make it happen just weren’t available. Then look back and identify which ones still have appeal and pull at you.

As you look back at all of the items from the different parts of your life, are there some that still stir up a desire? What would it look like if you chose one or more of those interests, talents and dreams from earlier in your life and did something with it NOW? Perhaps you want to pursue them as you transform your 3rd Act into a time of life you really enjoy.

Transforming Your Retirement: Dreaming New Dreams

What if….you could be, do, and have anything you wanted to during the next 20, 30 even 40 years of your life? Having those dreams is an important part of transforming our retirement. Sometimes it is difficult to do that kind of dreaming from the viewpoint of today. How about reversing direction to look  back at the coming years rather than forward?

Imagine being at the end of your earthly life. Look back from that perspective and think about what you hope to see. Perhaps these questions will open up some possibilities:

1) What memories do you hope those you love have of you?
2) What will your legacy be among a wider circle of friends, co-workers and acquaintances?
3) What are the things about which you will say: “I’m glad I did that”?
4) If you were composing a newsletter/newspaper about your life, what would the titles of the articles be?
5) What would want included if you were the subject of an article titled, “Local (wo)man celebrates 90th birthday and accomplishments of the past 30 years”?
What would it look like, sound like, feel like?

As I am transforming my retirement, I have these new dreams: to relocate to be near my daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren and develop a successful online business that will allow me to live comfortably, travel a great deal, and contribute to some of the causes and movements that I strongly support.

Part of the vision for my business is to build a network of incredible people who share how they’ve invented their lives after age 60, and who have a specific commitment to contributing to their community & the world. Can you imagine what a difference we can make? This isn’t a dream I could have had early in my life. It’s a result of being a teenager and young adult in the 60s and 70s, of living and working through the succeeding decades with expectations that each of us can make a difference. It’s possible because of technology that allows us to connect in ways we never dreamed of earlier in our lives.

Dreams, visions and goals are powerful. May they be a driving force as we are transforming our retirement into a joyous, significant part of our lives.

Transforming Your Retirement: Role Models Along the Way

We all have role models that influence us in each time period of our lives. We can learn from those people again as we are transforming our retirement. Before we look at the ones that are influencing us now and for the future, let’s start back in our childhood. The earliest recollection of stating that I wanted to be like a particular adult was saying that I wanted to be fat like Grandma Smith! I was about 6 at the time, and I succeeded in following that role model up until I started high school!

Perhaps your choices were less conscious and declared. They may have been positive or negative role models. Whatever they were, travel back mentally and pull out those childhood and teenage role models and make a list of them. What was it that attracted you to them? How did their examples affect your dreams and decisions as you grew up?

Who were your role models as a young adult, and what areas of your life did they impact? For instance, you might have had role models for job or career, relationship and parenting, spiritual matters, and others. Think about what you admired about them and wanted to emulate. Did you indeed follow their example?

You can do the same process with role models in the middle years of your life – later in your working years and family development. Some of these people may have drawn you away from the first set of role models as your life changed and you went in different directions.

Are they any of the role models from early or middle adult years still people you look to as guides? As you move into this next exciting phase of transforming your retirement, are there people who have something to teach you? Decide whose example you want to carry with you. For the other positive role models, bid them a fond farewell and express your gratitude for what they provided for you in the past! This can be a private thing for you, or you may choose to contact one or more of them who are still available. A message of gratitude from the past can be a treasure beyond measure to give to another person.

In addition to the gifts you find in past and current role models, I encourage you to look for some additional people who can inspire you in this new phase of life. As you continue the process of transforming your retirement by deciding what directions you want to go, you will be identifying those people.

Transforming Your Retirement: Forgiveness and Taking Responsibility

Without exception, people will disappoint us and hurt us. It’s impossible to avoid it. Holding onto anger and grudges because of that, however, is something we have control over. In the process of transforming your retirement into a joyous journey, you will find more freedom if you deal with this baggage. Maybe your anger goes back to childhood; maybe to yesterday. Regardless of the length of time, it is a negative pull from the past that can alter our potential future.

Perhaps you can identify and feel deep hurt and/or anger toward a parent or other person that goes back as far as childhood. Perhaps it is more recent. Whenever it was, you owe it to yourself to put it to rest. In some cases, seeking professional help would be most advantageous. Another option is to do some work yourself that can alleviate the damaging emotions. These steps can be used regardless of when the situation occurred.

First consider what you are gaining or what the ‘payoff’ is for you to hang onto this hurt or anger. This may require some deep thinking; so don’t rush through this first step. Here are a couple of possibilities; they may spur other thoughts. Perhaps someone else’s actions and the impact on you gives you a reason or excuse that things didn’t go as you wished for you after that. You may think, I would have done much better in my life if that hadn’t happened. Or perhaps you feel betrayed by someone for whom you gave so much. You may think, if I had given all I gave to you to someone else, my life would have been so much better. Find the ‘payoff’ for you.

Now ask yourself how you would feel if you could release your negative feelings related to this person or this situation?

And how would your relationship with (or memories of) this parent or other person change if you moved beyond these feelings? Take some time to imagine this.

Now make a choice: will you keep the benefits or ‘payoffs’ of hanging on or gain the benefits of forgiving and moving on?

A helpful way of choosing the benefits of forgiving and moving on is to write a letter to the person(s) involved. It may either be actually delivered or for your own use. The writing will be beneficial for you either way. Start out by describing the source of your anger and hurt. Be as specific as possible; get into the feelings and describe them. Then describe the impact that has had over the subsequent years. End with a statement something like, “I now choose to forgive you for that and forgive myself for not finding a way to resolve this earlier. I can’t change the past but I can choose to let it go and release the claim of that past situation on my future.”

If the person is alive and you feel it could be freeing to discuss this with them, do it. If you can’t or choose not to do this, either read it aloud as if you are speaking to that person. Claim that resolution and let go. Feel the freedom it provides as you continue the process of transforming your retirement into a joyous time of life.

Transforming Your Retirement: Mining the Gold In Your Life

Often in the rush of life we lose track of our accomplishments and some of our strengths. As we close out our career or employment life, it can be very helpful to reflect upon and celebrate some of the unique milestones, achievements, and strengths that have brought us to where we are today. This reflection can be a way to take inventory of what we carry into the new future we are designing for ourselves as we move into this next phase of life.  Transforming your retirement gets a jumpstart when you begin from a place of confidence and celebration.

First, celebrate accomplishments. Include job or career success and advancements, family joys, particular skills you have developed, contributions you have made to your community and beyond. Write a list of those accomplishments, read it, add more things that you think of and allow yourself to celebrate and appreciate.

Now let’s dig a little deeper to find and identify those threads of gold that run through your life. You will be looking for attitudes, skills and qualities that were demonstrated in some of your experiences. These are ‘gold’ that you bring into your next phase of life and cause for celebration as you are transforming your retirement. Here are three areas to look at; you may think of others as you do this.

1) Surviving hard times – Look at each period of your life – childhood, teen years and adulthood divided into 10 year segments up to the present. Identify hard times/challenges during each period. For each challenge you identify, think about the attitudes, skills, and qualities came into play as you went through that period.

2) Contributing to others, to your community and beyond – Look at the ways in which you have contributed through the years and again identify the attitudes, skills and qualities contributed to these accomplishments.

3) Having the courage to follow our highest aspirations/your “true” self, your heart. Usually these are significant turning points in our life history, so approach it chronologically by time periods in your life to identify them. You might call these your “courage mileposts”. It can be very enlightening to explore these times – what made you aware of that calling or aspiration, what conflicts arose when you moved in the new direction and how you resolved them, and what you learned by having the courage to follow your heart.

These strands of gold are precious elements that can help you move through the transitions of retirement and beyond. If you mine them and use them, you can enhance your coming years immensely as you are transforming your retirement.

Transforming Your Retirement: Dropping the Baggage You Drag Around

If you are approaching, beginning or in the midst of retirement, there is a great likelihood that you have some baggage that you could let go of. Few of us get to age 55 or more without some things that are weighing us down. Transforming your retirement into a joyful, productive time of life is much easier without the baggage. Taking some time now to think about that and make some decisions can greatly impact the quality of your days ahead.

REGRETS can be a powerful category of baggage. It’s nearly inevitable that we’ve missed opportunities (didn’t invest in that Microsoft stock when it was first offered?), had misplaced priorities (was work really more important than going to your kid’s graduation?), or made rash statements (how could you know it would be the last time you spoke to her?). Some things we may brush off, some we may remember them and learn from, some we may obsess about.

If there’s a nagging regret with guilt feelings that can bubble up with certain trigger thoughts or experiences, it’s worth spending the time to dig into that a bit deeper. If you ignore these regrets, they can hinder your journey of transforming your retirement. Here are some questions to help you come to peace with regrets and be less likely to create regrets that become obsessions in the future. These could be specific situations or incidents, or a pattern of behavior or activity or time.

Think about the situation, who was involved, what you specifically regret, and the choices you made or actions you took. Did you have other alternatives and what were they? And perhaps most important, what meaning are you giving to the impact of your words, actions or choices in this situation?

Now that you have a clearer picture, you can decide to let it go. Here are a couple of ways to do that. You might write a letter to the person(s) involved explaining what happened, why you did what you did (or didn’t do) and express what you regret. End with a statement of apology or whatever you want to express. You may feel moved to send or give it to those involved if it is possible. Or you may choose to take a symbolic action such as burning it or discarding it to end the power of these regrets in your life.

You can also write yourself a letter in which you forgive yourself and give yourself permission to let go of the pain and regret. You might include a statement of what you learned from this and what will be different because of it.

This process can free up energy and creativity for being and doing more of what you most want to do in these years in the process of transforming your retirement into a joyful time of life.