Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Retirement—The Arc of Life—Bell Curve or Swoosh?

Picking up on Saturday’s post: I thought things would get simpler as I approach retirement. Instead they are more complicated. I expected the arc of my life to be a bell curve, with the X axis for complexity and the Y for the years. Life would start out very simple, get progressively more complicated, and gradually get simpler once again toward the end. I’m finding it more of a Nike-like swoosh, trending upward in its complexity.

The possibility that life will keep getting increasingly complicated is scary. If I remember my physics classes, to get a bell curve, I’d need to find external forces to exert pressure on the end of that swoosh to bend it down into one of Malcolm Gladwell’s long tails. There’s something inherently contradictory in it being so complicated to get simpler. With my luck, the swoosh would coil in on itself, creating a spring. I have a vision of me, flung off into space, where I’ll drift for eternity among the other debris in the upper atmosphere. So much for a long tail and metaphors.

It gets me thinking about graphing other aspects of life into retirement. The Y axis is always the years, but the X axis can be so many other things. Here’s how I see some of them.

Income is generally a bell curve, while expenses are usually a bell curve ending in a swoosh of medical expenses. Of course, if one becomes a successful author later in life, income could be a swoosh, too. (Another shameless appeal for more of you to follow my blog.)

Number of friends – sadly, a bell curve. However, friends to whom you are connected can be a swoosh, thanks in part to Facebook. As a matter of fact, a recent AARP survey of 3,000 plus people 45 and up shows that loneliness decreases after age 60. They probably conducted the survey in those retirement communities in Florida that are known for line dances and member-produced Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

Moving on. The hair on your head – bell curve (women included.)
Original teeth in your mouth – bell curve.
The food you can eat – bell curve. Babies start out with limited diets and lots of soft mushy food. Need I say more?

My husband’s weight – bell curve; my weight – swoo-oo-oosh! I’ve often said there should be a law against husbands weighing less than their wives. Unfortunately, Jagdish won’t put on even a pound or two of sympathy weight.
Ailments, aches and pains, medications – swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.

Sex – generally a bell curve, although some retirees claim it’s a major swoosh. I don’t want to reveal too much about my life in the sixties and seventies, but those retirees must have had pretty tame sex in their salad days if senior sex is considered swooshy.

I could go on for several more pages, but you get the idea. Feel free to weigh in with suggestions of your own.

As I reread this posting, I’m sensing a pattern here. The things that you would like to be a bell curve are generally a swoosh. The things you’d welcome as a swoosh are bell curves. It’s as though some higher power is playing a cruel mathematical game with us as we move into our retirement years—a game that goes on until we flat line.

I decide to make “A Grand Plan” for when I retire. I’m going to focus on one curve each year to see if I can change its aspect to something more favorable. Maybe I’ll start with turning sex into a swoosh again. That should make my husband happy, but I worry about getting too caught up in this metaphor. Another vision of me, this time whispering sweet nothings in Jagdish’s ear. As I catch sight of that swoosh taking shape, the marketer in me shouts Nike’s tag line: “Just do it!”

That sound you hear next is our sex curve flat lining.

No comments: