Chapter 12: My Geriatric Life - "A Reflection" from Carpe Diem Seize the Day, A Treatise of my Mental Health Experiences

Chapter 12: My Geriatric Life - "A Reflection"
Dr. David J. Koehn Psychologist Fort Myers, Florida

Dr. David Koehn is a psychologist practicing in Fort Myers, FL. Dr. Koehn specializes in the treatment of mental health problems and helps people to cope with their mental illnesses. As a psychologist, Dr. Koehn evaluates and treats patients through a variety of methods, most typically being psychotherapy or talk therapy.... more

Chapter Twelve

My Geriatric Life

“A Reflection”

I am now in my early seventies. Physical health wise, I have had heart surgery where they put in two stints. I had post-surgery complications of having renal failure. To correct the problem, I received potassium drip in which the nursing staff damn near killed me by not diluting the solution. I am a bit overweight. I should be twenty pounds lighter. I am taking medication for acid reflux, cholesterol, and blood thinners as well as taking Dr. Amen’s Brain and Body Power Boost. I still have issues from previous neck surgery (C3/4) and right toe surgery to correct arthritic pain. I get numbness in either hands when sitting or sleeping. It is not carpal tunnel syndrome though, which has been ruled out. Recently I had rotary cuff surgery in April 2018 and have been through a difficult rehabilitation. The jury is still out as to the degree of recovery. I continue to be active as possible, being smart about gently playing golf, occasionally playing cards and going fishing. Got my first hole in one last year on a par three one hundred fifty-eight yard hole over water against the wind. To my frustration I am not playing tennis. Hopefully I will be able to return and get back in the game. 

Mental health wise, I remain optimistic and once in a while I would get down but quickly bounce back. I drink three-four times a week typically one-two drinks, with my favorite being Henrik’s gin. My wife says I am a short hitter, probably true. I do not hold my liquor well. The worse I get is a little irritated but usually remain relatively calm and peaceful. In my just younger brother’s words, I am way too competitive for my own good. Still love to cook and entertain. Many say I am a great cook. In one of my granddaughter’s words, “Pa is not just a great cook, he is a gourmet chef.” 

Our four children, three daughters and a son, now in their mid-late forties or early fifties, are all doing well. They are still married and their partners are extremely successful. Of our seven blood grandchildren, some are still in grade and high school. Some are earning a living and some are in college. Life appears positive for them.  All appear highly motivated and each is specially gifted and bright. It is possible, within the not too distant future, Rebecca and I could be great grandparents. We will see. Also, we have six step-grandchildren. Each is treated as though they were our blood grandchildren. They are all doing well and we treat them with respect and dignity. 

My Current Kaleidoscope

Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson published an article in Harvard Business Review entitled “Success that Last.” Here they identified a kaleidoscope strategy for success that included four phases, like chambers.  The four phases/chambers refer to:

  1. Achievement, accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have striven for
  2. Legacy, helping others find future success
  3. Significance,  positively affecting those you care about
  4. Happiness, feelings of pleasure or contentment in life

The key idea is to have balance across all four phases for you to feel real success in your life. To help data mine each phase the authors added four lenses: self, family, work, and community to be looked at as one views their own successes in each chamber. I added a fifth, spiritual. What follows is my own treatise of what my past success kaleidoscope looks like. Next chapter we will explore my future kaleidoscope of life.

Past achievement goals are interesting to reflect on. I did get a Ph.D. in psychology, taught at numerous colleges and universities, and applied the learning to many different kinds of jobs I held. These jobs involved major positions for a variety of companies but never where I attained a CEO position. I did develop an S-Corporation and continue to be somewhat successful in business. I did get married, divorced once but had marriages lasting more than twenty years and I am still happily married. Both blood children, son and daughter, not only graduated from college but both have advanced degrees, the son with a Master of Arts in creative writing and the daughter with a Medical Doctorate in internal medicine. Both are happily married and have wonderful gifted kids. Both my step-daughters are doing exceptionally well are well-grounded, married to successful businessmen, have beautiful, bright children, and are doing things that make them happy. For many years throughout my career, I was considered an expert in the field of intellectual deficiency. I set up parent groups to help them learn how best to teach their child basic skills; I set up a national recognized work bindery program inside a wall-covering company for the developmentally disabled; I developed backward learning techniques to teach how to do many sports like bowling; I set up and ran a boy scout troop for adults with developmental disabilities; and as stated in an earlier chapter I developed a unit management system and regional resource center. I grew up as a devout catholic, told by the pastor that I had the calling to be a priest, sang solos, dutifully did my catechism, was in the choir during grade school, and went to mass everyday up through eighth grade, but grew leery of the catholic organization and its overly ritualistic way of doing things. In college, I basically went my own direction and still believed in the philosophy of Catholicism to practice being as good a person as I can, helping others in need. Throughout my life I have striven to be results oriented, be self-actualizing, humanistic encouraging and affiliative in nature. 

Regarding helping others find success, my legacy, I devoted a lot of my professional career to helping parents be more successful in dealing with their children who have special needs, such as gifted, learning disabilities, autistic, emotionally handicapped, developmentally challenged, and attention deficit/hyperactivity. I also have personally helped these special needs clients be more productive with their lives and redirected clients who have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, motivation, etc. to lead positive adaptive lives. To some degree I believe how I conducted my life has positively influenced our four adult children to be resilient, highly motivated, make good judgments/decisions and lead a moral/ethical life. While my wife has been my best friend and advocate and at times is hard on me, I appreciate everything she has done to make me a better person. On the flip side, I know she believes intensely that I have helped her grow too. Many of my colleagues have thank me personally for helping them jettison their careers through my coaching and encouraged/helped attain advanced degrees – several at the doctorate level.  Personally, I have used SMART, which means specific/special, measurable/motivational, results based/reasonable, and time bounded goals and Goal Attainment scaling as a means to ensure I stayed on a successful track. To keep the correct mental attitude, I have used Dewitt Jones “For the Love It” seven key concepts that translates to operating with a Full cup, find guides, act as if, express gratitude, make a contribution, pass it on, chase the light as my beacon to success. 

When I view myself through a looking glass, I hope I have positively affected those I care about most, my friends, my wife, my children/step children, my brothers, my son/daughter-in-laws, my grandchildren, my colleagues, and my dissenters.  I have been heavily influenced by the work of Eden Ryle and Joe Batten. Eden Ryle talks about attitude development and eliminating bad thoughts and fears while Joe Batten has emphasized that motivation comes from within, it is intrinsic.  Eden talks about packing your own shoot, grabbing hold of today, eliminating the pike syndrome, you can surpass yourself, and the joy of involvement. When she closed her business, she gave all the supporting resource materials dealing with her work. I have leveraged her thinking both professionally and personally. Regarding Joe Batten, he talks about the power of high expectations and strengthening one’s capability across ten factors associated with the ‘Circle of Motivation.” These tenets I have modeled every day and watching my clan who I care the most about I can see those positive elements being demonstrated all the time. To my dissenters, I also apply effective messaging by Mathew McKay, that is stating what I see as the facts, telling them what that means to me, expressing how I feel about the situation, and explaining what I want/desire in as tactful and positively nonverbal way as I can. I also apply assertiveness tools of broken record, fogging, probing and negative assertion which is just admitting the mistake and promising to do better the next time if I feel I am being manipulated into doing something I do not want to do or made to feel bad.  If there is a conflict, I employ natural inquiry which requires a four step process: (1) State your position using effective self-expression – get confirmation that others heard exactly what was said; (2) Let them state their position, probe to make sure they state all four elements of effective self-expression whereby you get confirmation from them that you heard exactly what they expressed; (3) Explore together to see if a creative or better solution can be agreed upon that is better than either was initially capable of coming up with; and (4) Determine how you are going to manage the differences if a solution cannot be agreed to and set a time-frame as to when you will entertain the conflict again.  If change is required as part of the interactive dynamics, Kim Krisco’s tenets embedded in the video, “Power of Future Conversations” is added where you ground yourself in the past, moved to the future and ask what could the possibilities be and back up to the present and ask what is needed to be done now to make the possibility occur.

Happiness is a function of performance being driven by a constant quest/thirst for learning and being intrinsically motivated. Without either factor, performance does not happen and the outcome of being at peace with oneself does not occur. Being happy is being content with who you are and what it is you have contributed to life in general.  Feelings of pleasure and contentment are the backbone to what has happened to me thus far in my life. I make sure I stay involved in a variety of professional, social and personal activities that that I enjoy and keep my mind being curious and in a constant learning mode. I have taken on as part of my mantra the yin/yang of being positively selfish and being selfless.  Both are interconnected in leading a balanced happy/healthy life.  Matthieu Ricard introduced me to altruism, the concept of selflessness.  His treatise is extraordinary and has been a game changer in many of my clients’ way and my way of leading our lives. What I have added is the element of being positively selfish where you do healthy/meaningful things for oneself as well as being selfless. Being selfless means doing things for others and expecting nothing in return monetarily/tangibly. If you mix/blend the two perspectives of life you get the best of both worlds - eastern culture philosophy and western science.  Nowhere is greed, personal gain or egocentrism to be part of the makeup for happiness.

In looking back over my four chambers for the most part they are balanced and have an inherently concurrent yet divergent set of lenses, multiple pieces of glass, within each chamber to make my kaleidoscope sparkle with beauty and intriguing visual configurations.   The next chapter portrays my future kaleidoscope as I move beyond my geriatric years.