Life death retirement and LIFE AGAIN

The Good Life Letter
9th July 2010

  • Why I have embraced the rest of my
    life with more passion ever since my
    grandfather said the word "coffee"
  •  A website where you can swap books
    - another where you can swap your
  •  8 top tips for a great retirement and
    life that we can all benefit from now

First of all, before you worry that Ray may be going through a
personality crisis or have been taken hostage and usurped, I should
let you know that I have taken over The Good Life Letter reins for a
couple of weeks while Ray is on holiday.

He will come back and he may even be slightly browner. For the
meantime, however, you have me, Wendy Churchill - who some of
you will already know from my own e-letter, Life is a Bag of

"So what do you want me to write about?" I asked Ray on the
phone while he was packing his suitcase and writing notes for the

"Make it something light." he said. "Something cheerful."

So why oh why, you may wonder, have I decided to defy his
instructions and write about 'death'? Let me explain...

Many years ago when I visited my Grandfather in hospital a few
days before he died, the nurse came in and asked him whether he
would like a coffee or a tea.

"Tea." replied my grandmother.

"Coffee." Said the dying man.

"But you never have coffee." carped his tiny cross wife by his side. 
"And that is why I am going to have it now." he replied.

And it has been ever since that day that I have promised myself not
to wait until the week before I die to do the things I want to do... to
try the things I want to try... and to say 'yes' to all the adventures
and experiences that are out there to be had.

Saying "no" to fear, "no" to shyness and "no" to procrastination
and the life-destroying habit of not being bothered or getting round
to it... I have always embraced death as the constant reminder that
one day my time will run out so I should make the most of it today.

Every bird I hear singing... every sight that my eyes see.. every
beautiful breath I breathe may turn out to be my last.

Why it is actually good to think about your own death

As I was flicking through another of my 99p books today called
The Greatest Retirement Tips in the World, I discovered that the
author Tony Rossiter shares my sentiment.

Death, he says, has become the great taboo subject in our society.
While the Victorians believed that subject of sex should never be
mentioned in polite society, for us it is dying.

I have often thought that one of the reason that we are afraid of
death is that we are afraid that we have not yet lived well enough.
That we will have run out of time to love more, to live more, to
create or forgive before our time comes.

But surely then we should use it as a stimulus - to encourage us to
live well and make good use of the time we have left?

Letting go of the things we cling to, embracing what
really counts   

Another benefit in embracing the idea of our death is that we will
then not need to live in such fear of it.

I love, for example, this quote from The Tibetan Book of Living and
Dying by Buddhist master Sogyal Rinpoche:

"There would be no chance at all of getting to know death if it
happened only once. But fortunately, life is nothing but a
continuing dance of birth and death, a dance of change. Every time
I hear the rush of a mountain stream, or the waves crashing on the
shore, or my own heartbeat, I hear the sound of impermanence.
These changes, these small deaths, are our living links with death.
They are death's pulse, death's heartbeat, prompting us to let go of
all the things we cling to."

8 top tips for a great retirement and life

You will appreciate, I hope, that this email was not intended to be
morbid. The opposite, in fact. I had better, therefore, return to the
jauntier side of my intention which was to offer you what I believe
to be the 8 best tips from Tony Rossiter's book - most of which
offer an equally good message for those of us still working:

What will you do with the time you have left? "Perhaps,
above all, it is an opportunity to take stock of your life and to
decide what you want to do with the time you have left. You'll want
to make the most of it. To do that, you need to take a hard look at
yourself; to decide what's important to you and what isn't; and to
make sure you spend most of your time doing what you enjoy."

Life's too short to be what others want you to be. "The
chances are you've spend a lot of you life pleasing other people -
especially those you worked for. Now you can show your true
colours! Don't be bossed about. Take control of your life and spend
your time doing things you want to do. It's a great opportunity.
Don't waste it. Don't worry too much about what others think or
what others expect of you. Be true to yourself."

RPM - Routine, People, Meaning. Work will have given
you these three things that human beings need and crave. When
you stop working, it's important to ensure you still maintain a daily
routine, get contact with other people and feel that there is meaning
or aims in your life. Those of us still working may use this to add
more discipline and purpose to the way we live our lives too.

To make best use of your time, it's good to have a plan.
If you don't make a plan for your time it's likely you'll end up
feeling that you've frittered it away or that it's somehow
disappeared without you noticing it and cheated you of its
presence. One idea that Tony suggests is to divide the day up into
morning, afternoon and evening and mark out activities for each. It
may also help to dedicate certain time slots to chores so you can
keep them in check and enjoy the rest of your free time.

Forget the good old days - love the present. Another
interesting point that Tony makes is that many people end up
making themselves more miserable than they need to by constantly
moaning about the present and thinking that things were better in
the past. "Of course," he says, "some things were better - some
changes have been for the best and some haven't. But you'll feel
more at ease with yourself - and others will find you more
interesting to talk to - if you focus on what's good about the
present. A positive approach to life is good for you!" So why not
try, for example, making a list of all the great things about modern

Check out the Help the Aged website for free advice on
financial subjects such as pensions, tax and writing a will as well as
advice about health, your mobility or being a carer.

Discover the joy of this book swapping website, I love this website not only as a way of
getting hold of loads of brilliant books without having to buy them
- but also for its feeling of community. There are so many books to
choose from it's amazing. Reading through other people's lists of
books is also a bit like examining the contents of other people's
shopping trolleys (or is it just me who likes doing that?).

Swap your skills to save money and create community.
Another great website is where you can offer
your skills in exchange for the skills of somebody else. You might
swap, for example, your curtain making abilities for a couple of
hours of plumbing... or get somebody to do your garden in
exchange for your services as a dental hygienist.

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