Lifestyle & Retirement

Living Life To The Fullest Regardless Of “Social Norm”

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Living Life To The Fullest Regardless Of “Social Norm”


Like Forrest Gump said, life is definitely like a box of chocolates. That means, of course that you never know what you are going to get (that is until you bite into enough of them to make that judgment from the outside).

But…Forrest Gump lived his life as if it were a never-ending bag of potato chips that he carried with him all the time – all he wanted to eat, when he wanted to eat, so to speak.

Our Boomer Generation is, in large part, the first generation to have their “all you want to eat” bag of potato chips of life reinvented and reapportioned to them in regimented bites, of which each person gets only so many and then they are gone – as if there are no more.

Here’s what I mean. During the building of this great country and society of ours, the family unit was just that – a unit. In large part, it took the entire clan to feed itself and do all the work necessary for survival. Therefore life progressed, as family members

were born and died, much like a continuum, with no real beginning or ending; every person doing what his strength and talent enabled him to do toward what had to be done to the best of his ability, growing and going through life as he saw fit and was able according to his talents and disposition.

However, after the Second World War (WWII), with GIs coming home to wives and starting families, with each wanting his own privacy, a new way of life developed which we call suburbia. Our GIs were in part rewarded for their service with government loans and other amenities in order to facilitate establishing their lives with their new families. Great tracts of land were developed for building respectable GI homes and young families moved in – in rows of pretty little houses, very similar to all the others on the block. In effect, this fractured the traditional family unit, scattering members here and there, where they were surrounded by and associated generally with like-minded and like-aged people.

As family life developed in suburbia (cut off somewhat from the traditional whole family unit), it slowly began to revolve around certain events, occasions, and landmarks in the lives of a majority of others living in that suburb. All children entered grade school, jr. high and high school en masse, and most of them walked to the same neighborhood grade school together or in groups. Churches developed here and there, whose congregations consisted somewhat of the same group of people, whose children attended school together; whose parents were in the PTA together, and, typically, whose teachers lived many times in the same neighborhood. People began to move through life’s stations in a harmonious rhythm like a school of fish.

As it so often happens, insightful people of the new suburban era noticed this subtle change in American group thinking and sensibilities and wrote several folk songs that were fairly popular with those who understood. One especially by Pete Seeger was entitled “Little Boxes”. I’ll shorten the wording for brevity here:

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes
Little boxes
Little boxes all the same
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same
And the people in the houses all go to the university
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school
And the children go to summer camp
And the boys go into business and marry and raise a family
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same
There’s a green one, and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same

After several decades of unofficial and unnoticed regimentation, events in people’s lives (rather than the rhythm of nature and life itself) became the beat to which preceding generations marched. Pawpaw was left on the farm, visited on weekends; granny occupied the tiny room in the back of the house. Soon the continuum of life was forgotten; replaced by a uniform code of society. The continuing all-you-want-to-eat, when-you-want-to-eat-it bag of chips was replaced by your allotted portion of chips to be swallowed, one at a time and only at certain “milestones” throughout life – a new code of life emerged.

For the most part, boomers are the first generation in the US to become lost in regimentation and lose our very identity to the labels we put on ourselves by society. We are the first group to be handed, with great ceremony (and a gold[tone] watch), the last potato chip of life. Our last potato chip consists of (according to the uniform code) forced retirement, social security dole, pensions, “fixed income”, Senior Citizens Centers, dominoes, and “senior jokes”. That last potato chip contains the edict that we must do certain things, behave a certain way, and we can’t do a myriad of other things because our “age” magically and mysteriously somehow took away our capacity and abilities.

What have we done to ourselves?

The continuum of living has been in large part replaced by a regimented code of life stations and appropriate conduct. This code came about generally unnoticed from unwritten society rules brought on by the natural regimentation of persons who grew up in new suburbia, the results of GI loans and suburban homes offered to our returning servicemen at the end of WWII. The code – unwritten, but fiercely defended, demands in essence the following life’s stations: 1. Infanthood, 2. School days/Adolescence. 3. Productive years, 4. Retirement/old age. In mid-century suburbia these were four labels from which you could not escape. You were at all times classified in one of these four.

1. From birth until the age of 6 you were nurtured by your stay-at-home Mom, at which time
2. You became magically ready for school, in which you kept pace with your peers until you graduated (either from senior high or college).
3. At that time you were ready to become productive and “succeed” in life, until
4. Age 65 when like Cinderella’s golden coach turning into a pumpkin you mysteriously lost your functionality, value, and glamour.

This phenomenon, which ingrained itself unknown into our very attitudes toward ourselves and others over the first several boomer family generations, resulted in each individual as well as society in general automatically placing all persons in one of these niches, treating them with attitudes required by their specific life station and clucking the tongue at otherwise natural behavior, not deemed appropriate for that specific station. It’s akin to a “class” system that no one can escape and still be accepted as “normal”. If society classifies a person as one thing he can’t do this, he’s not allowed to do that, or he has “no reason” to do another thing.

We did — over the years, first by acknowledging and imposing artificial stations in life on others as well as on ourselves, and, then, by celebrating initiation into that station as if the celebration marked the magical changing of that person into something somehow different than who they were a moment before — because the event occurred – and for no other reason. So, instead of having an all-you-want-to-eat bag of chips, each person, by edict or by convention, is given only a set number of chips by society and in their own mind.

Starting to school, graduating, finding employment, getting married, having children, buying a home, retiring – and then the last potato chip in the bag – senior citizen, growing old, golden years, post retirement, geezerhood – whatever it is called. The last potato chip.

Our Boomer Generation is the first generation to be cut off from the extended family unit. We’ve spent our lives, willingly and contentedly, in glorified “concentration camps” of our own invention. Like a school of fish we moved in unison, everyone doing the same thing at the same time, no one getting out of line – manageable, easy, convenient — regimented.

Now we are, many times, left staring at the last potato chip, apportioned by that regimen with no perspective of our life – where we’ve been, where we’re going, who we are — sad, lost, and afraid.

We’ve bought into this thing! And now we need to find our way out of it or be content knowing that the potato chip we hold in our hand is the last one. So. Maybe it’s not the last one. Maybe we want more.

We must find ourselves, not as a mass of people, a mob or a PAC; but find ourselves, individually. But to do that, we must first understand that we are missing. We are a product of the pretty and comfortable concentration camps we grew up in. In that camp we forgot how to think for ourselves, make our own decisions, be ourselves. We have to find our own way back. It’s our right to demand, hold on to, and enjoy the whole bag of chips that is our life, talents, and worth. And it’s our privilege to decide how large our bag of chips is. No group, association or government agency can do that for us.

As persons growing up in the boomer generation (after war babies, the advent of suburbia with its synchronized lifestyle, and all else that it entailed), we might find ourselves caught up in a classed society — not in an old European sense, but nevertheless, a classed society.

When the new phenomenon, “retirement”, liberated us from our life’s toil, we gleefully took advantage of that. Deciding we had done our share, we sat back on our laurels, thus, establishing a mindset, not only in our own minds, but in the minds of other generations as well. Many thousands yearly experience the “twilight zone” of waking up one fine morning and realizing that, magically, (gold watch or not) they have morphed from high-powered executive into someone’s grandpa. They have gone from productive individual, participating in life’s rich smorgasbord to “granny” sitting in her rocker, clucking her tongue at new fashions — a lone figure (a caricature of themselves), relegated to a pedestal where they are automatically deemed unfit for further useful service, magically becoming frail and fragile in body and mind. A good percentage of suburban retirees never get their bearings and live their remaining years in quiet depression, which they cope with by their own devices – building birdhouses, marathon golfing or sleeping in their chair.

“Retirement” brands us as “different” and not a part of the general population. So we position ourselves in our own families as well as in society, not generally as productive citizens, but as unpaid “odd-jobbers” and “special needs” family members (tolerated at the great party we call life, but not entirely welcome there).

We have accepted this self-imposed, powerless position of “senior citizen” and, for all practical purposes, have willingly become beggars for handouts, unpaid family servants and baby sitters; a “special” minority worthy of preferential treatment and accepter of pre-arranged discounts and freebies offered in large part out of pity or duty. We have accepted the handouts and have allowed our “leaders” to whine and demand more in our name.

The society we live in and the world in general will again consider us an equal and treat us with genuine respect and camaraderie only when we change our own vision of ourselves – the vision that we are somehow different. Then we will regain our self-image and our real identity within the family, our social group and the community.

We must adjust our own thinking about ourselves!

We should no more think someone over fifty taking aerobics instruction is remarkable; than we should tolerate anyone else thinking it’s “cute.”

We should no more think it is “special” that someone in their 70s works (or works out) than we should think it amazing that someone in their 40s works (or works out).

We should accept someone in the eighth decade of their lives buying a new car as a normal decision and should not tolerate other people thinking it is silly or unnecessary.

We are not special. We’re not different. We’re participants in the great continuum of life. We are eaters of potato chips, and can enjoy as many as we want, whenever we want.

I don’t know about you, but I want more potato chips. I’m a potato chip addict. I will decide how many I get. I’m addicted to life and am part of the great continuum of life. No societal edict can make my choices for me.

Copyright 2015 DannaGrace, LLC

Editor’s Notes:  Danna G. Hallmark is a concept and training materials developer, philosopher, author, and writer, who has had a long career of “out of the box” thinking, guiding, and counseling in many venues. More of her writings can be found,,, is also published by and has several books on the market, both in digital and hard copy. You can reach Danna by asking to connect on Skype dannagrace1, or at

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