The Dao of Standstill Is Gratitude

Waiting seems like standstill. It is uncomfortable for this old dame.

I started The Doberman Project eager to press forward with my tlotal Life change.  I was full of concrete plans and an end-of-year deadline to enact them.

Future Is Unknown and Unpredictable

Circumstances beyond my control have intervened in my retirement plans.

Indeed the whole world is waiting to see whether the USA plunges into fascism, or the president-elect sparks a nuclear holocaust, or if the world economy goes into a tailspin as a result of the nativist tendencies sweeping the world.

movie still from All Quiet on Western Front
From film All Quiet on the Western Front.

The antidote to standstill is gratitude.

Gratitude is the antidote for any ill that befalls us. In the smallest pleasures of life we find redemption.

It reminds me of the soldier’s hand stretching from the foxhole for the tiny singing bird in the great film All Quiet on the Western Front (novel by Erich Maria Remarque). This last act of remarking beauty and life becomes his death.

Hexagram 12: Standstill or Stagnation

The 12th hexagram, P’i, in the I Ching is Standstill or Stagnation. The powers of heaven and earth are out of balance and pulling away from each other.

P'i: Standstill or Stagnation

“The way of inferior people is in ascent; . . . But the superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is close to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.”

I have been even more reclusive than usual. Having a Doberman to train and exercise would do me a world of good. An intelligent Doberman Pinscher is a true companion dog, noble, watchful, and protective.

The notion of standstill and stagnation appears repulsive. Yet smelly things transform in stagnation; from compost come the best fruits, vegetables, and flower.

From Stagnation Comes Transformation

P’i, read in its entirety, is a hexagram of hope.

Man in prayer

Line Three states, in the Wilhelm translation, “Inferior people have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility.”

Fifteen USA security agencies say Russia meddled in the US election that has put this ignorant narcissist into office.

“In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a turn for the better.”

The final three lines promise, “First standstill, then good fortune.”

I have a comfortable apartment.  I am in good health.

I mostly enjoy my teaching job and the chance to be with my terrific, hard-w0rking, hopeful students. I can increase my savings for The Doberman Project, retirement, and my total life change.

A few close friends and family are a treasure.  All my needs are met, by the grace of the Dao. I give thanks.

The Dao of Despair and Hope

Rembrandt studio, woman walking to the left
Studio of Rembrandt van Rijn, Beggar Walking to the Left, Rosenwald Collection

The election of a racist, misogynist, narcissist as president has shaken to my core.

Knowing that one half my fellow Americans think it’s okay for a man who shamed a handicapped reporter from the stage to be president earns my contempt for them.

There is no place to run and hide. A wave of far-right narrowly nationalist fervor is sweeping the planet, from India to England.

When I started this blog, I was inspired with a sense of purpose and energy for how to spend my retirement: I would find a home with a yard appropriate for me and a Doberman. I would participate in training to the highest level of excellence possible for the animal and me.

A simple plan for a total life change.

Then, whoosh, despair for the future of our great Republic swamped me — despair that so many people choose to put illusions of self-benefit above civility, the Constitution, compassion, and the law.

One person suggested that I need therapy. I think not.

Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts)

“The ultimate purpose of psychotherapy is not so much the archaeology exploration of infantile sentiments as it is learning gradually and with much effort to accept your own limits and to carry the weight of suffering on our own shoulders for the rest of our lives. Psychological work, instead of providing liberation from the causes of serious discomfort, increases it, teaching the patient to become adult and, for the first time in [her] life actively face the feeling of being alone with [her] pain and abandoned by the world” in Swamplands of the Soul, Hollis, a Jungian, quoting Carotenuto (The Difficult Art), p. 15.

After a certain age — and a certain age (often posited as post-50) is barely a shadow in the rear view mirror of life — and a certain amount of counseling and spiritual seeking, therapy is only a way of escaping the difficult realization that I am all I have.Oddly, I find these ostensibly cheerless words comforting. I even find a glimmer of hope and renewed purpose in them.

Figure walking, from back, Vuillard
Edouard Vuillard, Walking Figure Seen from Behind, c. 1894, Gift of Benjamin and Lillian Hertzberg

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

TS Eliot, Little Gidding, the last of The Four Quartets (http://www.coldbacon.com/poems/fq.html)

I was greatly influenced by The Quartets, a meditation on time, often as an undergraduate at New York University back in the days when Bob Dylan sightings at local cafes often turned out to be true. I listened to Eliot intone the words in a flat, gravely voice, on the now archaic invention of a long-playing album.

After decades of exploration, I cannot say that I know this place in life — despair — at all. I can say my current despair is a situational adjustment issue, as a therapist would frame it, and not the inner angst of youth that goaded my early consultations of this poem.

Woman working in garden, Pissarro
Camille Pissarro (French, 1830 – 1903 ), Woman Working in a Garden, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection

A Sufi notion suggests sometimes we are in the garden where life pleases us, and sometimes we are in the fire, where we are tested. Both are places where inner lessons may be learned.

TS Eliot reached the same idea in the final lines of The Quartets:

“And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.”

In such stoic acceptance of reality, I find hope.

The Dao of Despair

My retirement plans are in shambles since the Election last Tuesday. My dreams and goals have become of little interest, like something from someone else’s life.

Change is always challenging for me to navigating.

Navigating the installation of a white supremacist in the White House is a change I find disgusting. I am not sure the Republic can survive this.

I researched many countries to which I might emigrate for many months this year as part of my retirement planning. There are places with large expatriate communities.

I am fond of my comforts in the USA. I don’t wish to die alone in a strange country.

It would be easier to move if I had a partner, be it lover or close friend, to negotiate such a thing.

I have an ongoing stomach ache, headache, and fatigue. All that seemed bright and shiny and full of hope when I started this blog is sucked dry of meaning.

The dao teaches us there are times of fullness and times when the tide goes out.

This Dame is grieving this repudiation of the values of my country.

Fear and Total Life Change

Fear is the enemy of total life change.

 

Woman wearing makeup mask
Total Life Makeover or Fantasy Mask?

My fantasies are rich and elaborate.

They rarely come true. One did. I was a very good reporter. I led an exciting and interesting life meeting and socializing with artistic, intelligent, and amusing people.

I haven’t lived a dream in a long time. Youth is a time of hopes and dreams. Old age is a time of maturing through recognition and acceptance of limitations – in health, income, opportunities of many kinds.

As my house hunting cracks into the reality of how little there is in my price range in safe, attractive neighborhoods, fear creeps into the schism between fantasy and reality.

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Fantasy Meets Reality: The Dao of Pushing Through

Four hours, a dozen properties, an intense drive through the neighborhood I favor, and fantasy meets reality. I have arrived at the dao of pushing through.

Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection
Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection

Goals and dreams are the wellspring of vitality. Without them, a person might as well be dead. It’s important in late life to have another project on the horizon.

The desire that illuminates my quest is having a well-trained, well-bred Doberman Pinscher.

Affordable homes for myself and my faithful companion are, so far, underwhelming. A home can look good when the photograph crops out every undesirable aspect.

One is next-door to a double-wide mobile with a platoon of kiddies’ bikes and a tree house on the property line.

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The Dao, Patience, and Planning

The dao of moving forward toward my goal of total life change — making a home for

Roselane Bull ceramic object
Roselane Bull

a Doberman Pinscher companion and me — is testing my patience. My astrological avatar, Taurus the Bull, is supposedly both patient and a bit lazy.

 

I plead guilty to the latter. Dog obedience training helped me develop patience. How can anyone be mad when a Doberman is so eager to please and fixes me with those soulful brown eyes?

 

I have been looking for home opportunities online. Home buying isn’t easy in my low price range. Satellite street view is my friend surveying neighborhoods.

Patience and Information Gathering

Another part of my total life change planning is contacting Training Clubs up and down the Florida East Coast and

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The Dao of GPS

Many colored cars lost in a maze, and a sign marked Find Your Way helps point the way
GPS makes it easy to find your way.

I welcomed myself to the 21st century in May by buying a GPS for the car. As a result, I discovered the DAO of the GPS. It is so much easier to focus on driving with this device.

I have wasted too much time missing an exit and having to take a long way around, or being lost in a neighborhood trying to find a house for sale.

South Florida is laid out on an East-West/North-South grid. If you know where the sun rises and sets, it’s hard to go too far wrong — unless you are in suburban neighborhoods of endlessly curling lanes.

It usually takes me by surprise when anyone says they don’t know the difference between the southwest corner of an intersection or the northeast, because they don’t know directions. How can that be in South Florida?

Mountain communities like the one in which I grew up are a little different. Roads follow the paths of rivers and old trails, some of these as ancient at the Native Americans. I planned to drive through at least four Florida communities, taking a glance at homes for sale. I decided I couldn’t do that efficiently with maps.

This Magellan GPS that does not include voice activation is wonderful. It got all the directions correctly to the local places where I was going.

When I changed the route home, however, the device relentlessly repeated that I should make a U-turn in 150 yards at 67th Street . . . . in one-quarter mile at 90 street . . . and so on until the device fell silent, no doubt sulking because it didn’t get its own way. It is rather like an annoying passenger in that regard.

It points out stoplight cameras.

I think I’ve decided on St. Augustine, but that market may be a bit overheated and out of my reach.

So I’m pulling out the GPS again for a peak at some places up in Martin County and beyond. The dao of the GPS is the dao of finding my place and the one where I can have the last great love of my life.

Total Life Change: The Dame, The Dog, and the Dao

Total life change is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

Change begins with choice.

As young adults, we embrace these choices. It is the first time you can change your world, for many of us, freed from the rules and expectations of others, to the degree we are comfortable unfettering ourselves.

We start our careers, find life partners, move from one city to another, discover new foods, new music, arts, interest, and hobbies, and we may travel and explore the world. It is a great adventure.

By the time we are ready for retirement reinvention, we’ve been knocked about by life. We recognize that the voyage to change your world is not always the idyllic cruise of our youthful imaginings. I am comforted when I feel as if I am following the dao, the right path, for me.

This infographic portrays the three areas of learning as I embrace my total life change.

PlanningInfoGraphic

Home is all about this Dame. I am a Taurus, and my home is my sanctuary.

I spent several months doing online research about where to live, coordinating real estate prices, climate preferences, and kennel club locations. During a drive from North Carolina to South Florida, I did drive-bys of 14 homes in four communities in which I did expanded drive-throughs to check out the neighborhoods.

I could not have accomplished this time-consuming research without a GPS. This was my first experience with one. It was heaven to be freed from maps and pulling over to read them.

I already knew that my budget affords marginal neighborhoods.

This long day of driving narrowed my search down to one area of St. Augustine and resigned me to manufactured housing. Change begins with choice, and making these decisions are necessary toward taking actionable steps.

Now I am educating myself about manufactured housing, including what to look for, whether to buy a used mobile and transport it to my own lot (yes), the differences between cement pads, runners, and pilings (also called footers), utilities hook-ups, and cost of transporting the unit.

An unexpected benefit of this has been two long, nice conversations with my bro who knows a great deal about mobile homes and construction. Our relationship has not always been easy for either of us! I appreciate having his expert advice.

Simultaneously, I have been educating myself about health testing for Doberman Pinschers and updating my knowledge of the great breeding kennels in the US.

I am making slow progress on the dread financial and legal front, a part of my life I have been putting off for decades – so why rush into now as I close in on 70? That’s an ironical aside. Without this part of my plans supporting home and dog, no matter how right it may feel, there can be no dao.

There are days when I consider no longer having my campus job as a touchstone of my reality. My work has been a large and important part of my identity. Not having this income makes total life change seems as fearsome as entering the cave of Daenarys’s dragons.

Mostly, my retirement reinvention is giving me a renewed sense of vibrancy, energy, and life.

How to Follow the Dao to Retirement Reinvention

An old flame called me, and I decided to change my life.  Probably not the way you think.

As I talked with my long-ago lover, I realized I had no photo of him nor any other around my home — just one of the man I have been divorced from for decades and will always love.

But there were two of the great love of my life, L’Ombre the Magic Doberman.

In an epiphany, I remembered promising myself I would train Dobes when I retired. And here I am, on the brink of leaving my profession with only the vaguest of plans of when and what I’d do.

The Dao Demands Change

Yet here was the dao demanding a complete retirement reinvention of my late-life self. Once the moment of insight passed, I realized with a slight hitch in my breath that I’d have to change every part of my life.

Changequote

I have to move from my pet-restricted condo and retire from my local job.

I have to re-educate myself about the breed, because L’Ombre was chosen for me by Roslyn Terhune, an expert.  She helped start the Marine Devil Dog unit in World War II. I have no Roz to make a wise choice for me this time.

I’d have to get my financial affairs in order and face all the other end-of-life details I have put off for decades.

Yet I have an inner knowing of the dao.  It is a force inexorably pulling me forward toward my retirement reinvention. .

The Dao of Retirement Reinvention

This blog is about all the details and life lessons I learn about how to follow the dao to my retirement reinvention. I hope you enjoy the ride.