Barbara Bergin: Twenty-four hours in a day and one life to live

So get started. Sometimes I wish there were thirty-six hours in a day. If there were and you lived for eighty years that would be over a million hours which could easily be two people’s lifetimes. But we don’t have twelve extra hours a day and we don’t have an extra lifetime so we have to make do with what we have and for most of us it’s about fifteen good solid hours a day during which time we must eke out a living, raise a family and throw in a couple of chores. And dream. Dream about something we might have wanted to do at one point in our lives. A point at which we made a certain decision to do something else. Or eat something else. Or go with someone else. Or be someone else. Maybe we look back on some of those decisions with thankful relief. But sometimes we look back on them with regret. Would ha’, could ha’, should ha’.

orpic1-1.jpgIn my current position as an orthopedic surgeon I see that people are living longer and longer, they’re smarter and smarter and have more physical energy and ability to be fruitful and prosper in their “golden years.” And trust me, all of us doctors are doing everything we possibly can to make it happen for you. So our attitudes at 60 should be more like our parent’s attitudes when they were in their 40’s. We don’t necessarily have to be looking toward retirement and finishing our careers. We shouldn’t have to be cutting back or decreasing our loads. We should be looking for something new to occupy our minds and bodies. And by the way, I’m referring to careers and hobbies, not necessarily spouses.

Twenty years of living after retirement and after children have graduated, married and maybe even have had their own children, can seem like an eternity. What about forty years of that? That’s plenty of time to try something new and I encourage people to get started by forty. When you’re forty you can start training for sixty. If yours is a physical job, it’s a good time to start training for a more sedentary job. If you’re already doing a sedentary job, it may not necessarily be a good time to look for a physical job, but maybe looking for something outdoors or creative would interest you.

If you’ve stayed at home with your children, forty is a time when they’re likely to be in school and you can start completing your own education, taking up a new hobby, or getting back into that career you put on hold. If you’re in a rut in your job, your fortieth might be the catalyst to start making the change. Businesses are more open to hiring and training forty year olds rather than fifty year olds and they don’t have to say it out loud, thereby giving you an opportunity to find an EOC attorney.

horse.jpgI loved forty. I loved fifty too…just not as much as forty. But forty was when I decided to learn to ride horses and to learn to work cattle on horseback. In retrospect, I must have been going through a mid-life reassessment (not a crisis) and wanted to connect to my heritage. It was between learning to work a cow and learning to sail a square-rigged ship. In Austin, Texas the cows were more accessible. And that decision  led to a future of competitive horseback riding that will keep me busy until my back won’t take it anymore…and even then I might find myself a Paso Fino or a Tennessee Walker.

barbharleyturningcow.jpgI love horses and recommend them highly for those of you looking for a new hobby in your forties. Now I counter that by saying I wish I had ridden horses as a child, because only child horseback riders, like child skiers, have that naive lack of fear, the absence of which keeps us late bloomers from becoming great and carefree riders or skiers.  But if you choose your horses wisely, (another story altogether) then you should feel good about safety. And the great thing about horses is that they provide the power. You don’t have to run, jump or squat. I call horses the great equalizers because you can be a 5’2” hundred pound gal and compete or ride just as well as a 20-year-old strapping cowboy.

I’m not sure if I want this blog to be about redirecting our lives after forty or learning to love horses after forty, so I think I’ll make it both by using the horse experience as a metaphor for life experiences. Well the point of this blog is you try something new. You try something important. Something that involves the mind and body in a way that redefines you to yourself and to others. I became a cowgirl and a cowgirl-doctor. Now, I’m an author too. A cowgirl-doctor-author. Not necessarily in that order.

It’s interesting how, as a result of the internet, I do have patients who come to see me because they were looking for a doctor and found out that I was a horseback rider and an author, so they figured I’d be a good kind of doctor. I love that…I really do.

teacher.jpgA patient of mine recently retired from IBM. His wife retired too and they decided to get their teaching certificates and become substitute teachers. Many of us have academic skills that should not be wasted. Nowadays most colleges and universities have short courses (some even a month long) for those wanting to get certified. I can’t imagine anything more fun than teaching, especially as a second career. Anyone who previously got a college degree and has some skill and desire to communicate with young people should not miss out on this opportunity to provide an important service to our struggling school districts.

pottery.jpgIn terms of hobbies, in general I love things that use our brains more than things that use our brawn. I see a lot of patients who injure themselves participating in contact sports and high impact activities when they are in their fifties. You have to think about what the human organism was meant to do. First of all, we women were not originally constructed to live extremely long lives. A woman in her thirties was an old sage. Cave gals started having babies when they reached puberty and didn’t stop until they died in childbirth. That’s why the average woman’s lifespan has gone from 40 in the early 1900s to 80 in this decade. Now that we live longer because of improved peri-natal care, forceps delivery, C-sections as well as antibiotics and roofs over our heads, we have to protect our bodies. High impact activities and contact sports aren’t the way to do that, especially after forty. I know a lot of people are going to hate me for saying this, but I am just parleying what I see in the office into advice for the aging population. Humans are hunter gatherers. We’re not runners (except for people from Ethiopia), we’re not swimmers, skiers, power lifters, squatters or rock-wall climbers.

11-15-07042.jpgI was a doctor first. Then a rider and finally an author. I’ll retire from medicine someday when it’s appropriate to do so. Hopefully I’ll still be a rider, maybe of Pasos, but probably not cutting horses, and when I just wear out and can no longer ride, I’ll still be a writer…in the middle of my second career! So when you start thinking of things to do as hobbies and jobs after forty, start thinking about things that are gentle on your body. Walking, hiking, painting, taking pictures, playing guitar and making jewelry. Think desk jobs and activities that use your creativity or intellect. These are the things that keep you out of my office and you can do them indefinitely. And look forward to a long life.

By the way, I’m going to give away a couple of signed copies of Endings. I’ll draw a name out of a hat for the first one. Slam dunk. Just send a comment regarding this blog and you’ll be eligible!

bergin-cov.jpgI love scavenger hunts and so for the second one, you’ll have to go on one. Here’s the question. What are the three things Leslie stocks her mini-fridge with? Of course you can find it in my novel, Endings, but you can also find it in my blog archives…something about a gift. First one to tell me the three items gets the second book. I look forward to hearing from you.

Barbara Bergin, Author of “Endings”

To order Endings from amazon, click here!

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28 thoughts on “Barbara Bergin: Twenty-four hours in a day and one life to live”

  1. Good Morning,Barbara! I love your enthusiasm!
    I live in a growing retirement area and volunteer in the local school system and the local hospital. I see many newly retired execs who have moved here substituting in the schools. They all say working with children keeps them young. I agree!

    I had a successful career in banking before taking early retirement to care for my husband. I’m now a 56 year old widow and wondering what to do with the rest of my life. I have three hobbies that bring me great joy. Travel, photography and chocolate making. I’ve toyed with the idea of turning them into a second career. Several people have told me I should open a chocolate shop. I don’t really want to tie myself to a shop but I’ve been playing around with other ideas like selling my chocolates in a friend’s gift shop or marketing them as a “welcome home” gift for area realtors to use when they sell a home. I shoved the ideas to the back burner a while ago while focusing on day to day “stuff”. Thanks for bringing it back into the light.


  2. Hello Barbara! I never thought I’d say this, but I *love* being 50. It’s liberating. The kids are grown and pretty much out of the house, except for holidays, summer, etc.. Even with working p/t, I’ve got time to write, exercise and enjoy a good book now and then.

    Your book sounds fascinating. I work for a couple of doctors and love stories with medical backdrops.

  3. I see someone else beat me to the punch I got caught in reading all your blogs. I was hooked right away I will be adding you to my list.
    Here is what the 2 times were.
    A bottle of A & W rootbeer
    A bag of baby carrots
    some Yougurt
    I am so glad you were on this blog page I had heard of you before but couldn’t remember your page so now I have it marked I love your comments of so many subjects.
    I am glad there are things to look forward to as I turn older I just turned 40 and it seemed like life was leaving me kids moving away and out and starting their lives no life with me now..Thanks again for the encouragement..

  4. Hi Barbara,

    Welcome to P&P, we’re so happy to have you here!! And what a topic. My clock is missing a lot of hours. I never have enough time to do what I need, want, and love to do. I sure don’t know how you fit in everything with your busy schedule. My gosh!

    I think, like you said, the secret is prioritizing but I haven’t had much luck with that. Guilt sits on my shoulders if I don’t try to manage all my obligations.

    Anyway, my hat is off to you. You seem to be doing okay. I hope you come back again and visit. We’d love to have you!

  5. Brenda, my 50’s have been my best decade so far. You have plenty of new adventures to look forward to!:)

  6. WoW what a busy woman you are!! there was alot of interesting things i read in your post but will narrow my comment to the horses which i’m 43 now andI can honestly say my wonderful memories of my childhood were due to my horse i spent the majority of my waking hours with I even remember sneeking out of the house sleeping with her in her stall. These are very intellegent and loyal animals. My regret was letting her go but i loved her dearly and could not have handled her dying on me and so many times i wish i would’ve kept her untill her last breath. Somethings you just can’t go back and change. Enjoyed your post!

  7. Hi Barbara, such an amazing, inspiring life you’re leading! It’s on my list of things to do–learning to ride a horse. And that being said, I love being a gramma. He’s 17 months old and the light of my heart.

  8. OK, Barbara, I’m glad I don’t have to feel guilty about not running, power lifting or high impact sports but I still do love skiing! And, thanks to you, I can still do it! You are an amazing woman…I’m happy to call you friend! Maybe you should add teaching to your resume. You’d be fantastic…the students would love you!
    And like so many others, I LOVE being a grandma named Honey to our 4 fantastic little ones and having time to do things I couldn’t do when I taught. It IS a great life and a great time to be 50+. Thank you for reminding us all of that! DR

  9. Hey Barbara, I’ve had a love for horses ever since I can remember. I think it started with stories that my mom would tell about her sister’s lack of fear and how she’d scoot under the bellies and between the legs of horses to tease her siblings.

    When I started reading, invariably I’d choose books with a western, pioneer or some other historical theme that involved equines.

    I always knew I’d own a horse some day. It was a given. However, my husband had other ideas. You see, when his younger sister was 9 yrs old, she was caught on a runaway horse and all hubby remembers is flopping around like a rag doll. It was an image that stuck with him.

    But after 25 yrs of marriage, he finally relented and I bought a horse. Although hubby had occasionaly ridden other horses with me, having one on our own farm was different I guess, because he allowed his fear to overshadow the joy that my kids and I had for the animal. After a couple years, we gave our horse away to friends where we can visit her whenever we want. Hubby’s calmed down, the kids have got over it, and my marriage has survived.

    But of all the books I read and write, the ones with horses are my favourite.

  10. I had never looked at retirement in that light; dh and I are getting used to being retired but he seems to have to do some work to keep happy. I, on the other hand, don’t need work(yet, anyway. LOL.

  11. What an amazing woman you are! I’m 67 but don’t have 1/100 of your energy. Your book sounds fantastic.

  12. I enjoy scavenger hunts too! Just too late for this one 🙂

    Wow, you are one busy young lady! 🙂 I am under forty, and can already check walking, hiking and photography on my healthy habits list.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  13. Really enjoyed your blog and will be looking forward to reading your book.

    I admire your many challenges met!

  14. Thanks you so much for being our guest this weekend, Barbara. You are one amazing woman! Please don’t be a stranger in Wildflower Junction. You’re our kinda gal!


  15. We decided to work and have fun first and then we had kids 15 years after we were married. My oldest is getting married this summer and my youngest is going to be going away to college. I’ll be 60 or more by the time she graduates and then I think my daughter is hoping I’ll be babysitting for her lol.

  16. Hi Barbara, Thanks for some great insight. I think it’s amazing all that you do and I agree that doing different things that you may not have considered are a must and well worth it for your health and soul.

    Both my husband and I gave up a lot of good years for our medical careers. When we hit our forties, we decided to do more for ourselves, took up swimming daily, reading fiction, and now kayaking which we absolutely love (we’re out on the water with our sons every weekend for much of the year). Theses changes were much needed and much appreciated!

    Have a great weekend.Thanks for your post!

  17. Great post! I look forward to reading or hearing more on this topic. BTW, I had a chance to see the article in the Texas Techsan magazine while in Lubbock last weekend. Congrats! You are an inspiration!

  18. Thanks for the informative post! It’s great for
    those in their forties. For me in my seventies, I would have to be very selective, but there is much
    to consider!

    Pat Cochran

  19. What a wonderful and inspiring post. You certainly are to be admired and I enjoyed this fascinating and informative post.

  20. You are certainly one amazing and creative woman. Being an orthopedic surgeon as well as an accomplished and creative woman is something to be proud of. You have a full and satisfying life which I think is wonderful and complete. Loved reading your excellent post.

  21. Wow! Impressive blog which I fully enjoyed. SO talented, capable and interesting an individual. Many of us have to learn by example and you are exceptional in everyway.

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