The only things we have to fear are death by politics or getting stuck in our underwear



I wasn’t alive then, but I’ve heard President Franklin Roosevelt’s “fear” speech replayed so many times I can still hear the static in the background as he told radio audiences, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Those were profound words, and, not to take anything away from his motivational and historical comments, but lately I find there truly are a lot of things to fear.

Now that I’m past 60, I have this irrational fear of catching my little toe in my underwear some morning, falling on my face, and having no one around to pick up my undignified broken-necked body. I know the solution to this fear is to sit down on something to put on socks or underwear, but it’s darned unhandy and a waste of time.

Then there is the fear of never-ending tomato blight. This is something only a gardener would concern herself with, but believe me, it is legit. How many times have I planted, watched anxiously for the green twigs to start sprouting tomato babies, anticipating the wholesome flavor of red, juicy adults, and then had hopes dashed by tomato blight, the scourge of the land.

Or, how about the fear of death by politics? This particular phobia asserts itself through an addiction to cable network news and commentary, including setting up your DVR to record the shows you might have to miss due to being forced to perform daily living functions such as cooking, eating supper and mowing the grass. Those of us who must have our constant supply of negative fear-mongering and hackle-raising find ourselves without a sense of purpose when deprived of the chance to rage at the television. The death part comes when we become so apoplectic from all the things we have no control over, we keel over from high blood pressure or, worse, stroke.

Naturally all this worry is pure nonsense, because the only real fear we should have is that of leaving this world before making the proper connections with God and/or our fellow man prior to getting hung up in our underwear.

This is one of several columns that will be included in an upcoming book, “The New Other Mail: A Newspaper Column and a Memoir.”

Retirement primer: Teaching old dogs new tricks

When you retire, the learning doesn't stop. It's just time to stop chasing cars.

When you retire, the learning doesn’t stop. It’s just time to stop chasing cars.

Someone should have warned us about this retirement thing. They should have given us some sage advice that could have prevented the mild (as yet) malaise that set in by the first full month after selling a business and going on Social Security.

It would have helped to know the following:

• The moment you creep toward that magic age of 65, whether you’re officially retired or not, your phone and mail will be inundated with solicitations by insurance companies, reverse mortgage outfits and community volunteer organizations. Many of them entice you with a free dinner at a posh restaurant so they can strong arm you about shifting your retirement funds into fixed annuities, then try to make you feel guilty if you don’t rush right out to transfer those hard-earned bucks. Save yourself some grief and pay for your own night out.  Heck, even the hearing aid purveyors want to give you a $10 gift card to come and get a free hearing test. And if you don’t know how to say no at this stage of life, your retirement will turn into a community volunteer’s nightmare and busier than work life ever thought about being.

The folks that eat away at your time are still in the 9-5 world and just trying to earn a living, bless their little hearts. But they take up (make that waste) a lot of your time. Schedule them judiciously or just tell them politely you don’t need to tour a timeshare because you just bought an RV. You don’t need dental insurance because you have dentures. You don’t need new windows or siding because you just retired and have no disposable income. You’ve already invested your retirement funds and life insurance cash with your longtime and trusted agents. Or, do as my husband often does to get rid of a call center salesperson. He adopts a foreign accent and tells them the owner of the house is out of the country.

• While it may seem so appealing, now that you’re not going to the office every day, to stay in  your pajamas until 11 a.m. sipping coffee and playing on the ipad, the new wears off quickly. You’re reduced to crankiness and feeling totally out-of-sorts and finally realize it’s because you haven’t shampooed your hair, had your skin pores awakened with a hot shower or just generally taken care of yourself.

A good rule here is to develop some kind of routine that mimics your old workaday one. Okay, sleep an extra hour if it suits you, but go for a walk or get on the treadmill, hop in the shower, get dressed like you’re going to the office  (sans the earrings and makeup if you don’t feel like it) and do something useful.

• For many retirees, once the excitement of a new way of non-pressured life wears off, depression can set in. Where’s the motivation now? Where’s the purpose and the reason to get out of bed? The amount of seratonin and dopamine in our brains is already diminished at this age, so we’re in a position to get completely mentally compromised in retirement.

It’s important in retirement to re-purpose ourselves. Shift the skill set we acquired in our long careers into something we can continue to use so it doesn’t rust. Why do you think I’m writing a blog, for God’s sake?! The habits and ego boosts gained over 25 years of writing a regular newspaper column will not go quietly into the night. If I don’t feed the little monsters they’ll just fade away and leave me a blubbering and speechless idiot. Some would probably prefer that, but it ain’t gonna happen near soon.

• When you retire, if you’re joining a spouse in this new lifestyle, realize that sudden togetherness, full-time, is fraught with emotional land mines. We’ll leave that whole subject for another blog.