Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 619 –  Frustration

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

I’ve entitled this episode Aging & Frustration.

A few years ago we cancelled our parking space in a nearby building in downtown Vancouver. We called ahead of time and followed the all of the rules. We turned in the entry fob and were told we would not be charged for the following month and that we would get our deposit refunded in full. It didn’t happen.

They kept part of the refund and then charged us again for one more month. They told us the price had gone up six months past and they had forgotten to charge us and they had forgotten to tell us. So…we were down about two hundred dollars. Not enough to get to get real excited about, but definitely not fair. The contract read that they were required to give us written notification of an increase in rates.

Frustration can come in various ways and at odd times. The question is always what to do when it does work its way into our lives. Of course, the responses vary – sort of like the reasons for the frustration. When the car parking incident occurred, I wrote it off. It wasn’t fair, I didn’t like it, but I didn’t want to cause more worry and grief through fighting a corporation over less than two hundred dollars. My thinking was that we could end up with bills for lawyers and court costs, and possibly a black mark against our credit rating. It would also take a lot of time and attention. I didn’t want to escalate the frustration. That reasoning had no effect on my nights sleep and my sense of being treated unfairly. Frustration roamed my darkened bedroom.

Then I shared the story with my daughter – a lawyer. She agreed that it was unfair and that she would write a very legal looking paper to the corporation and informed me that I could go to my credit union and file a disputed claim form. My money would be refunded and the corporation would have to get their money some other way. I just filed the papers. It took a half hour of standing in line at the credit union. The I faced the uncertainty of the next step.

I could console myself with the idea that I did what should have been done. It felt  good to even say that. However, my mind went to the possible next steps. I saw collection agencies making calls, writing letters, filing reports that may reflect on my credit rating. A cloud hung.

That’s the way it is with we older folks: we don’t like uncertainty. That’s why frustration rises. We like to know we will not be sued. We like to know that the retirement check will be deposited regularly. We know that old age, sickness and death are stalking us, and that is enough of a burden. All other impediments seem almost silly, but they still cause concern.

Frustration seems to rises up at the moment we least expect it. Sleepless nights visit us all too regularly. My mother used to complain about sleepless nights when she was in her sixties, seventies, and eighties. I could never understand why. She said that she would lay awake worrying about one thing or another. Of course it was always something silly and trivial once the cause was explained. She knew that. She would just shake her head and purse her lips in agreement. However, the sleepless nights continued.

Now that I am of that age I understand. Sleepless nights sneak into my bedroom all too often. Frustration accumulates as the minutes crawl by. Loren Eiseley use to write about this stuff. He claimed that it came from our uncertainty about life; or about death; and our own specific deaths. Nothing philosophical; these thoughts are cast in concrete and very personal. He talked at length about this experience in one of his books entitled, “Night Country”. It has been more than thirty years since my reading, but on dark nights it still crawls about uneasily in my mind; that rumbling mind that will not lie quiet and satisfied.

A good friend of mine died a few years past. He was frustrated right up to the time the powerful drugs administered by the hospice nurse ended his pain and his ability to speak. Questions persistently emerged: Why me? Why now? Death was not something he wanted to accept. His doctors had given him six months to live yet he lingered on for two full years. He didn’t accept the diagnosis. Oh, he did die that’s for sure, but I don’t think he ever accepted it until just before he slipped into unconsciousness.

Frustration comes with self-awareness. I’m not sure there is any escape. I sometimes think I have it licked by learning to accept those things I can’t control, but when I’m honest with myself, I know I’m living a lie. There’s a shadow behind the laugh.

This is retirement talk.

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