Other VanOrden Posts

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deep Change is Inevitable


About a year ago I decided I needed a new project on which to focus my life.  I was released as a stake president responsible for about 3000 members of the Mormon Church, our children were basically all “raised” and established in their own lives, my wife and I survived major health challenges, I was approaching the conclusion of a 34 year career with the same educational organization, and our finances were in pretty decent shape with sufficient resources for our needs. 

Our large home seems a bit large and extravagant.  Most home repair sand upgrade projects are complete or in the works.  Our debt load is about where we hoped for this time of our lives.  We are closing in on major transition from our parenting years to empty nesting with psychological challenges that go with not being needed quite as much by family or community. 

We have been so oriented toward serving others that we can hardly imagine just taking care of each other without some form of outreach to the society around us.  We don't want to make the mistake of imposing ourselves in the lives of our adult children in such a way they may “tolerate” our interest and intrusiveness.

Though we have deep abiding connections with the main culture in our lives which centers in Mormon beliefs and sociality, we understood very well the tendency of any religious organization to use faith as a controlling force to shape life and thinking.  After ten years as one of the leaders of the LDS Church in Alaska, with a Mormon population of almost 5%, my influence has dropped to negligible, and appropriately so.  I think it is the way all Churches should operate.  Periodic change in leadership is good.   

We have always wanted our faith to be inclusive and accepting, as well as comfortable.  My leadership style tries to make this happen.  For a Church that had to be isolated during its pioneer beginnings, the Mormon faith has made some significant strides in an effort to be inclusive.  They take an active role in community issues.  They reach out to assist those in need without expectation of conversion or commitment.  I think the motives have been purified and are Christ-like.  It is a positive trend.

So back to the subject at hand:  What to do with our time and future?  It has become apparent that spending more time taking care of each other as married partners of over 37 years, is appropriate and necessary.  At first it seemed a bit self serving and selfish.  But it has actually become fun. 

As far as community outreach is concerned, I have considered politics which is one of my interests and hobbies.  I have also considered extending my career and taking on a new project for the LDS Church Educational System.  I have always enjoyed new projects that are a challenge.  I was trained as an organizational behavior catalyst at BYU and UAF, and have always enjoyed that challenge.

On the other hand, I could “retire” and start my own business to continue to secure our future in times that tend to make hearts faint when it comes to financial matters.  If something doesn’t change, I best not count on social security income even though I have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the federal tax and redistribution scheme.  Frankly, I have never really planned on getting much back from SS, even though it is not an “entitlement” welfare program in our case, since it’s our money from earned income with contribution from us and our employers. 

Many of the Baby-boomer generation are taking on “retirement” careers.  I could get a job as a school principle in the local school district for about $100,000 a year, but that would be heavy stress during a time when reducing stress-load is important or I could substitute-teach for the local school district and earn $25,000 to $30,000 a year. I could get a job as an adjunct professor for the University system which would be intertesting and fun.  But you would be amazed how poorly they are paid.

I am enjoying writing and have two books in the works.  But making money writing is unlikely.  Since I have two college degrees and a lifetime of experience, the possibilities are almost endless.  But when I start considering the lifestyle we want, I realize I need to have control of my time and commitments.  So gradually the options have been refined over the past year. 

One of my main projects recently has been a concerted effort to improve my health.  I had ballooned to 280 pounds while I put all I had into being a Church leader.  The time and emotional commitments didn’t allow for self preservation.  In hindsight I wish I made more time along the way to take care of my own health. 

But now I am progressing toward the best health I can have for my age and body type.  This quest is one of the most satisfying projects I have undertaken.  It is a great reinforcement to watch my body change and even improve.  It seemed selfish at first, but now I realize I will be much more useful to my family and others as a healthy person. My successes have brought on a desire to “pay-it-forward” and help others with weight-loss and related health issues. 

My blog entries about my weight loss journey have been the most viewed of all my posts.  The interest has been huge and even surprising to me.  My weight-loss mentor has complimented me by asking if I would consider becoming one of his practices health coaches.  He does this professionally as a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine.  His business model is sound and the motivation is good.  Though it will never make me wealthy, it could help many people.  So I am considering it as a part-time retrirement endeavor. 

So the refinement continues as I approach retirement.  It’s not easy to give up a career I have been with for 34 years.  But change is good especially at this point in our lives. Its inevitability has become less daunting as we get closer.  I look forward with enthusiasm to what the future holds for Jeannie and me.