“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art” 

-Eleanor Roosevelt

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Achieving the Unimaginable: Being More Fulfilled at 72 than Ever Before

Achieving the Unimaginable: Being More Fulfilled at 72 than Ever Before

I dropped out of college after two weeks. I was fed up with having others dictate what I needed to think about and when I needed to think about it. I made a promise to myself going forward that I would only do what I wanted to do, and do it when and at the pace I chose to do it. It’s been a powerful and, at times, confronting choice, navigating me through disparate careers in music, television, radio, finance, meditation instruction, and philanthropy to the kind of self-reliance emotionally, spiritually and financially that I wanted.

In December 2004, I released a music album and was about to support it with live performances when the Indian Ocean tsunami occurred. I was struck by the struggles of survivors there. In a matter of minutes, more than 200,000 souls had been lost and 2 million displaced. Entire villages had been wiped out. Families were torn apart. The devastation was nearly incomprehensible.

I found myself wanting to help. Someone gave me the idea of producing a CD compilation with songs by independent artists such as myself. Sales would raise awareness about the need in Southeast Asia and fund rebuilding efforts.

The compilation began a magical ride. It immediately gained support from the United Nations and the Clinton Foundation, and in their wake, tracks were donated by name artists such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon (estate), Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Ray Charles (estate), Maroon 5, and several others. This project opened my eyes to human crises on a global scale and soon led to my producing public service announcements and other awareness initiatives with NBA stars–including Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Grant Hill, Steve Nash, and more–to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur.

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For Lack of Imagination

For Lack of Imagination

From age 46 to age 66 I ran my own business, an arty boutique in Santa Monica, CA. The ongoing conversation in my head, and with a few friends and acquaintances and, well okay, with some of my customers, coworkers, and the UPS guy, was that I had no intention of retiring. I would keep working until I couldn’t. Not for lack of money. I realize now that it was for lack of imagination! I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if I retired.

I had to DO SOMETHING after all! I am a doer, and I don’t mean workaholic. I also DO movies, swimming, reading, TV, lunch dates, travel, shopping, museum visits, restaurants, theater, and Dodger baseball – sometimes at the stadium but mostly at home on the couch.

Another reason I couldn’t imagine retiring is that I am driven to be USEFUL. Not only at work, but also to my family and friends and to the organizations I participate with.

Then I closed my beloved store “gioia” (Italian for “joy”). I don’t need to tell you what has been happening to small retail businesses. Even I shop online now, so I can’t blame my customers, right?

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Becoming a Volunteer

Becoming a Volunteer

 

A Social Quid Pro Quo

About ten years ago I started thinking about retiring. I lived in Mexico and was teaching university students online, having already stepped back from the most active elements of my career working as a consultant for large organizations. A few years later, I moved back to the US and slowly wound down my teaching work. It took me a few years to go from “thinking about it” to making it official, but for the last three years I have been fully retired.

At first it was kind of nice; I had no serious responsibilities. I had no clients to call, no student papers to correct, and no research duties. Life was good…for a couple of months.

However, after catching up on my reading list and binge-watching Game of Thrones, I started to get bored. I started to not have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I would lie there and think about what I had to do that day: Let’s see…coffee, read the local paper (bad news), surf the net (more bad news), and walk my dogs (the high point of my day). I started to wish I had kids and grandkids. Maybe I could offer some sage advice about something or nurture a sick child. Anything to make me feel like I was being of value as I had when I felt my clients and students held me in some regard. I had no real friends nearby so visiting them was out of the question.

I had lived in this state of mind for a few months when I started to realize it was affecting my mental health. I was starting to feel depressed...

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