Let me state right up front that my life since retiring is largely stress-free and for that, I am truly grateful. I have noticed, however, that whenever a stressful situation does arise, I am no longer able to handle it with the calm and patience I had in my working days.
When I was managing my own marketing consulting business many years ago, I made an observation that has come home to haunt me. One of my product research projects involved visiting seniors in their homes. It was a busy schedule with as many as six or eight visits per day around the Greater Toronto Area. It used to surprise me how impatient and agitated my senior candidates became if I did not arrive precisely within the one-hour window I had arranged with them by phone.
What shocks and surprises me now is how easily I too am rattled by the slightest disruption to my own lovely, calm life. Now I understand how and why those retired research candidates I visited all those years ago would get so cranky when I arrived at 2:05 p.m. instead of precisely between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. as arranged. Inevitably, I was jeopardizing their afternoon line-dancing class or pickleball game. Small disruptions become huge when your daily life is self-determined, uncomplicated, and peaceful.
Then, during my years as Corporate Marketing Manager for a major international construction management services firm, I regularly prepared written proposals, often several in one week, for projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Preparation of those proposals was arduous, complicated, and timed down to the minute for delivery to the client. It was stressful but in those days I could handle it and got ‘er done. While I did have a tendency to get cranky at times, as evidenced by the yellow caution tape I used to wrap around my desk, I mostly took it all in stride.
I was reminded of my growing lack of calm and patience again this week when my microwave died for the second time in a month. One inconvenience is stressful enough, but my anxiety was compounded when some workers accidentally cut our outside telecom lines effectively severing our television, internet, and telephone service for a couple of days. It was all this old boomer could do to hold it together.
By the time my appliance repairman got my microwave oven back up and running, and the telecommunications technician installed a temporary line to reconnect my television, internet, and telephone lifelines, I was so stressed out I had to lie down for a rest.
Then, my email got hacked. I guess it was my turn. Not only did they steal my contacts list, they blocked all incoming and outgoing email, effectively locking me out. After three days of failing to get it sorted out myself, I took it to The Geek Squad who fixed it in ten minutes. The old girl can’t take it like she used to.
Decades ago I read several of James Clavell’s wonderfully rich and informative books including Shogun, Noble House, Tai Pan, and King Rat. I learned so much about Asian culture but one colloquial word from those books I have never forgotten—Wa (和) is a Japanese cultural concept usually translated into English as “harmony”. It implies a peaceful unity and conformity within a social group. I like that.
Six things that push my Wa over the threshold:
- When my appliances crap out or do not work like they should I get extremely irritable. Don’t even mention computer, tech or telecommunications problems as that could induce a complete mental breakdown. I’m not a nice person.
This brings me to call centres in countries where English is spoken as a second or even third language. My hearing issues combined with foreign accents mean I have to ask the reps to constantly repeat themselves. Frustrating.
- I realize double verification security codes to access my online bank or Amazon account is for my own protection but it’s driving me batty. I rarely use my cellphone so texting a code to me is problematic. Trying to get that second verification code changed to email involved several phone calls to the above-mentioned off-shore call centres who required me to disclose a detailed summary of my medical history and ancestry, list in order the last forty-six online purchases that I made, and also to provide the exact genome sequence comprising my DNA. More first-world stress.
- I love going to the movies when that rare flick that appeals to boomers is playing, but I’m beginning to question whether the effort is worth it. In order to reduce their payroll and embrace high-tech, the last movie theatre I visited had closed its ticket booths entirely. I was required to purchase my discounted seniors’ ticket at the concession stand and pick my seat from a computer screen on the counter beside the pop machine. I realize I can preorder the tickets online but there’s a surcharge for that and I refuse to pay to do someone else’s job. My first challenge was to sort out whether the gray seats or blue seats on the screen were the available ones. Unlike the airlines (who also now have us doing our own bookings and indicate the sold seats with a giant X), the movie theatres keep you guessing which is which. This holds up the already long lineup to pay their usurious $25.00 for popcorn and a self-serve drink. Why can’t we just do it the old-fashioned way? Remember when we would all barge into the theatre and try to score our favourite seats on a first-come-first-served basis? There was nothing wrong with that system and it worked beautifully. It’s no wonder movie theatres are suffering declining business.
I used to order my favourite side-by-side chocolate/strawberry milkshakes with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top, served in an old-fashioned tulip-shaped glass with a straw and a spoon. That same diner no longer offers table service; I am now required to place my order on a giant screen like the ones used at most McDonald’s. And, my milkshake is served in a styrofoam cup, if their machine is even working that day. Give me strength!
- Then, there’s the issue of many restaurants now requiring you to pull up their menu on your phone with a QR code. Oh, my nerves! Replacing personal service with technology is as flawed and annoying as when human error was deemed unacceptable.
Life’s little irritations have become giant bombshells now that I no longer have to deal with the real-world stresses of working life. And, that’s a good thing!
The Bottom Line
The inherent joy in recognizing the stressors in this old boomer’s life lies in their utter triviality in the greater scheme of the world’s problems. I’m an old lady, so cut me some slack. When my Wa is shaken, so is my entire state of being.
If you are experiencing some of these same frustrations, I totally understand. You have my sympathy. Just make sure you do not drive in the passing lane unless you are actually passing, and use your proper turn signals if you’re in front of me in the car. I’m not psychic and it doesn’t take much to completely shatter my Wa these days. Things could get ugly. What are your boomer stressors?
[…] logical that I would follow up my posting a couple of weeks ago about boomer stress (The Joy of Stress – Boomer Style) with a suggestion on how to mitigate the problem. We’re all fed up with boomers being treated […]
Bought a new Whirlpool fridge a year ago with an maker. We were thrilled….no more ice cube trays. Then yesterday it stopped working. Definitely a first world problem but what kind of workmanship is that! They don’t mind charging extra for the feature🤨
It’s amazing that something as simple as an ice-maker can cause so much grief for customers. You’d think they’d have it perfected by now. Shame on Whirlpool!
Deadly accurate Lynda!!
Thanks!! I’ve sent you an email.