The Life Changing Power of Catfood Retirement

Waggish Reflections on an Internet Meme

I think it started with Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or maybe it was The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up. Someone who groks SEO figured that headlines containing the words “Life Changing” got more clicks. And now I’m seeing lots of blog posts with that phrase.

Perhaps that drew you here.


Now I’d better say something profound. OK here goes.

Your life may not need changing. Sure, it’s not perfect, but you’ve got wealth enuf to get onto the Internet and health enuf to point your browser here. That’s quite a bit to have. Imagine not having the gifts you currently possess. It is only fitting to feel gratitude.

Nevertheless, you clicked the link with “life-changing” in it, which belies some dissatisfaction with life as it now is. I’ve felt that dissatifaction.

But first a disclaimer…

I don’t know you or your problems. Please do not confuse flippancy about my trivial and imagined problems with insensitivity about real misery going on in your life.

If you really want to change your life, first understand what you want changed and gauge how much you want it changed. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Knowing how much you want change will help you pay the price the universe (or your subconscious) demands for it.

You must avoid learned helplessness. Maybe you need an employer upgrade, or you need to start an enterprise of your own. You may be in a relationship that needs ending. Or you may feel paralyzed on the sidelines not-asking out the girl of your dreams.

There are things in this world within your control and others outside it. The boundaries between what you can and cannot do are not clearly marked. And they can surprise you when you discover you have much more control over your life than you thought.

  • “Oh, I could never start a company at my age.”

  • “Oh, that girl would never go out with me.”

  • “Oh, I could never tell my boss, ‘No.’”

Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you cannot, you’re right.” (Or maybe he didn’t say that and it’s just an Internet-legend.) My point is that life-change is possible and you are not helpless.

Sometimes you must push on boundaries to know where they really lie.

Some unbearable situations turn out to be bearable afterall. People have survived concentration camps. An unhappy marriage or miserable job may be unbearable until we seek ways to bear it.

Life-change may require nothing more than an attitude adjustment.

Environment goes a long way toward life-change. This includes where you live and the dogs you run with. Maybe you need a better wolf-pack or a new kennel. It may seem insensitive, but you have to curate your companions when they keep pulling you down.

I’m told (perhaps another Internet-legend) that when you put a kettle full of crabs on the heat, the other crabs will pull down the one who tries to climb out. Maybe crabs do this or maybe not, but you want companions who build you up, not pull you down. Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

You want to pal around with the giants who lend you their shoulders and avoid the pygmies who stand on your toes.

I also understand that cultivating good habits can be helpful in cultivate life-change. But that’s another story.

Steve Poling

Masters degrees in math and computer science. Poet in several computer languages. I write stories about Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft, steampunk, and SF.

Grand Rapids, Michigan