A survival kit for retiring baby boomers

We’ve loved baby boomer Claude Nougat’s work. Living in Italy, she paints, she writes, and she still finds time to think about what’s next. When she wrote us at BoomerCafé about what she’s been doing lately, we asked her to write about how she squeezes so much in. So she has; it is one boomer’s take on life after retirement; she calls it, a baby boomer’s survival kit.

Whoever said retirement was a time for peace and meditation? To be honest, I thought it was. I was looking forward to leaving behind my hectic life. No more getting up at daybreak, fixing breakfast for the kids, rushing them to school. No more running breathless to the office and facing an endless day. No more business travel, catching planes at dawn, staying in foreign places.

Author Claude Nougat

Author Claude Nougat

In short, I’d had a busy life working 25 years for the United Nations and, in my view, I deserved a nice rest. The kids were out of college, the husband already retired. It was my turn.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First, I found myself facing deep existential issues. What shall I do next? Who am I? Questions I hadn’t asked myself since I was fifteen.

I tried out painting for five years, participated in 15 shows including two personal shows (in Paris and Rome) and then… I gave up! In this Contemporary Art world, my paintings were too academic, and that’s a no-no.

Next, I tried writing. That worked better and I’m still into it-– I’ve published ten books in three years(!), that is if you count the revised editions because I’m a perfectionist. Nothing is ever the way I want it and the digital revolution has a dangerous effect on writers: it makes it easy to polish your novel and upload a nice new version (that’s what I just did for a boomer novel published a year ago; it’s back with a new cover and title, “Crimson Clouds”). Hard to resist the temptation!

Retirement has been such a whirlwind of activities, my husband, who’s a patient, loving man, has had a hard time keeping track. Because in addition to writing books, I blog (posting twice a week) and contribute to magazines. Then there’s a “boomerang” son back home super-busy with his own start-up, a daughter who hasn’t “boomeranged” but has the cutest baby, and a mom who’s 100-years-old. She still reads one novel a week on her Kindle, but needs assistance and care.

Claude Nougat’s latest book – Crimson Clouds – is available at Amazon.com.

Talk about the sandwiched generation, I’m squeezed flat!

The way to survive? You could call it the “homeopathic kit”: just do a little more of what you’re doing already, and you’ll feel fine.

Sure, homeopathy has a bad press in some quarters, the idea that “like cures like” has no plausible basis in science. Well, that might be true for medicine, but not for psychology. Here is how it works.

For daily use:

  • Over coffee (or whatever you like to drink), talk to your hubby/partner/best friend, and go ahead and have a good rant; this can even be done with “virtual” friends in an email, though you’d better read it over before pressing that “send” button (you want to stay on the light side);
  • If you’re an artist, translate your angst and your gripes in your work; start a new piece, it’s ever so liberating… and if you’re not an artist, it doesn’t matter, use the above-mentioned “coffee” break.
  • Support your friends on the Net, via Twitter, Facebook, whatever social network you use; tweet their books, their music, their art! This forces you out of yourself: the support you give will be amply paid back.

For occasional use when things get bad:

  • Get out of the house, take a long walk, you could visit a new city or even a new country; a reset at least once a year is a necessity;
  • Amplify the support you give; work as a volunteer in a charity; look after people who are not family; you can do that once a week or a whole month, no matter how much, because you’ll find it’s a breath of fresh air.

Your forces are renewed. You’re still squeezed, but a little less flat!

Claude Nougat online. She is a writer, economist, painter and poet. Nougat is author of many books, including two in Italian that won several awards in Italy, and seven books in English, all fiction except one essay on development aid; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature. Her latest book, “Crimson Clouds”, is a romance, tracing the passionate search for self by a man who has just retired from abrilliant career and the desperate efforts of his wife to save their 20-year marriage.

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  1. Wonderful! I vacillate between feeling frantic (“I have so much left to do!”) and serene (“It will all get done”). An intriguing place to be in one’s life, for sure. I like the homeopathic comparison; a calm way to stay the course, one small adjustment at a time. Staying curious is the key for me. It keeps me alert and excited and open to the next adventure. I can’t imagine ever truly ‘retiring’ but I am becoming more thoughtful about my choices of where I want to be and who I want to spend my time with.

  2. Thanks Mindy, Michael and Eric, I’m happy that you find my “homeopathic” strategy interesting and I can assure you that it works wonders – helps you not only survive but enjoy life! And yes, Mindy, you make an important point: it is not so much a question of retiring as being “more thoughtful about choices” – one realizes that the time left is no longer infinite (the way it looks like when one is 20!), so prioritizing becomes essential…

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