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Boomer Creativity and Gray Divorce Vol 38

February 14, 2014

If the only reason you took up jogging was to hear heavy breathing again, you must be a Boomer !

BONO, the U2 singer and UN ambassador, was on TV recently talking about creativity. Basically, his interpretation was that it starts with an emptiness inside. You try to fill the emptiness somehow, and this is usually when art fills the space.

I was struck by his definition, which we have to ponder, coming from a world class artist. Personally, I believe that creativity flows out of us, like a turned on water faucet. I sometimes lie awake late at night, and the blog thoughts flow into my brain. I have to get up and start typing, just to get the thoughts out of my head. Friends have suggested I get a dictaphone, but I can just picture my wife’s reaction to me talking into a machine in bed at 3am. I do want to stay married.

Perhaps the way to amalgamate these two processes is to consider the idea that we all have some creativity in us. Generally speaking, it is probably a finite amount, not a life long outpouring, and it probably comes in different levels. Not all of us are Steve Jobs like creators, nor do we have the longevity of a Bono. Imagine Bono as someone who has used up his outpouring of ideas, and now he uses his business music experience and past ideas to plod forward, seeking to capture his past glory in new ways. This view makes him very Boomer like.

I am not downplaying his accomplishments, only putting them into a Boomer context. When I first took time off – a semi retirement if you will after 30 years of daily business grinding, I was disappointed to determine that nothing creative surfaced. I have failed at the saxophone twice, do not have a book in me, and have not learned a language. Frankly, even looking at something like Luminosity, the web based brain game, seems like a failure. Many Boomers I have talked to have this same emptiness – I am not suggesting that it is caused by a creative hole, but it could be. After all, we have been successful in our lives to date, and that success must have had creative elements to it. Whether in how you solved work or family problems, managed people, built up your community, or stayed married, some creative thoughts must have been in play. Your faucet of ideas was used to watch out for career landmines, raise your kids with some values, make friends and keep them, and plan for the future.

Looking backward, it is easy to see that Boomers tried to fill this hole in many ways. Vacations, gardening, TV, eating and drinking being the most popular. Boomers who can look past the work career experience and picture a creative future are the lucky ones. Unfortunately, most Boomers fit the Bono model, as we have used up our idea pool just to get to where we are in life, but lack the training required to be synergistic going forward. Perhaps we should reconsider our view, and look at Bono as a role model. I agree that its hard work, because the usual ideas we would get to fill the emptiness is new to us, but is not necessarily art.

Looking inward, I can see that this fill can come from many places. It can come from joy, like the birth of a grandchild, or despair, potentially flowing from a life changing illness. Since it is the emptiness that needs filling that evokes the creative thoughts, do not worry about failing ( getting lousy content). It’s the exercise of filling that’s necessary, so don’t resist, just go with the flow. It can be hard work, analyzing the fill, starting over, editing – this edit process can feel like failure, buts its only creativity !!!

Having suggest a path forward, Boomers need to be careful as to the extent of the changes possible. It is not time to relive your childhood, although I am sure this idea excites a minority of us. Opting out is not really an option. Becoming a drunk, for example – having a few too many each night, because you can – is not a long term solution to anything.

Boomers should start this process with small changes, and not do anything drastic, at least at first. An example of drastic is imbedded in one statistic that is troubling, and that is the 50%+ increase in Gray divorces. This is loosely defined at Boomer break-ups, although it really involves couples coping with a mid-life crisis at a stage in their lives when their menu of choices changes. The old adage that a man has three excellent days in his life – when the kids leave, when the mortgage is paid, and when the dog dies – is now playing out for Boomers, with unintended consequences. Since there must be some equivalent dates in a women’s life, the fact that I do not know them is probably telling, and so I could become part of the problem. ( please send me a comment if you know them )-

Boomers are getting divorced because of many issues. One major problem is the lack of sex. The NY Times Magazine had a great article on equal marriages and how, as the male become more integrated into the household, either through a stay-at-home career choice, or through negotiation, the wife sees the husband as less sexy. Metrosexuals beware ! Each relationship is different, but it is clear from the research that women still prefer a sexy man, not an equal relationship.

Secondly, with the kids gone, some economic independence, and freedom from a daily work grind, many Boomer couples are now negotiating their desires. Questions like should we buy a vacation spot, or an RV, should we sell everything and move south, can we agree on what movies to watch, even should we sell the family home and downsize, all are becoming contentious. It leads to separate TV rooms at best, and expensive life changing divorce at worse.

Perhaps we should start using our creativity on our relationships first.

Next on Boomers – wtf !, Nudging and why is good for you !

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