Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?





            Worry is the one thing that doesn’t lessen with age.  At the moment I’m worried about getting my driver’s license renewed. I’m still driving, knock on wood, although I have elderly friends, who failed their driving test, and you’ll not find a more  unhappy bunch.  You’d think it was the first test they’d ever flunked.

Got to confess, I’m not the safest hombre on the road.  Had a couple of close calls just this last week, so now when I get in my car, I’m on high alert. And as yet, nothing’s happened to increase my insurance policy, but don’t, old girl, I tell myself, get too full of yourself over that one.  It could happen anytime.

It’s the driver’s license that counts.  And the renewal of my driver’s license is coming up in a few weeks and I’m so nervous about it, I can’t sleep nights.  What if they took me out on the road and made me parallel park, could I pass it?  Probably not.  Oh dear, more worry.

Anyhow, in an attempt to dispel some of the unhappiness of my  driver’s licenseless friends  I’d try to cheer them up. Not very bright of me, but trying, although doing my best really bombed. For instance, I said, “What if they had a draft and all old people had to go to war—wouldn’t that be worse than not getting a driver’s license?”

“Are you kidding,” they reply?  “I’d love to be in the thick of things in a war zone, but with my poor vision I’d probably shoot myself—but so what?  Without a car, what does it matter?”

“Well, then, think of all the worse things that have happened to you in your life: getting fired, your Dad dying, getting divorced, etc.”

“Actually it was a blessing I got fired—I got a better job and losing my Dad, well, he was a cranky old cuss at the end and it was a blessing when he finally went; as for the divorce, hey, I’ve already got someone else lined up that looks pretty good.”

“Well, then be happy you can walk—and without a walker, too. Think of all the exercise you’ll get without a car.”

“Get outta here.” Is their-good natured response.

All the above is easy for me to say, I’m still driving.

Two weeks later:  Whew!  Hallalujah!  Got my driver’s license.  What a relief—good for five years.  No more worry or  sleepless nights. I’m worried at this particular moment, as I write this, though, about getting my lawn mowed.  Should I get a neighborhood kid to mow or would the exercise do these old muscles some good.  Maybe best to hire a landscaping business to do it on a regular basis.  Expensive, but well, I can’t be a cheap-skate.  So I’ve spent the last week cogitating on what to do.  It needs mowing now, and can’t wait much longer or I’ll have to get it harvested.  But luckily this doesn’t make for sleepless nights. 

As far as worry goes, I have a minor worry about my teeth.  Got a semi-tooth ache in one tooth.  Over half of my sixty year old friends have false teeth.  I went through several friends getting false teeth and what a drama. First off, unlike my mother, who had a mouthful of rotten teeth, that hurt her so much that when she had them all pulled at once, and got new dentures, the house was filled with her joy and freedom from painful teeth. 

But these friends of mine, who had their teeth pulled, had teeth that looked pretty good to me.  They were losing their teeth due to a gum disease.  And they pulled their teeth slowly, one by one. 
And you should hear the complaints about not being able to eat anything but soup, pudding, jello and ice cream.  Their complaints go like this:

“Never let me see any more soup, chocolate ice cream or pudding again.”  And then when they get their new teeth, they don’t fit properly.

In reference to my own  crooked, now yellowing teeth,  sometimes I wish I had false teeth.  But again this is not a worry that causes sleeplessness.  

Worry is mostly confined to women.  Or at least, they’re the ones that talk about it the most.  Well, men worry too, about their jobs, money, their car, etc., but it more concrete worry than women’s worries.  As for women, it seems negative evaluation from others is their main problem, going over and over, “Why are they mad at me?  Why did they treat me like I had horns and hoofs, when I was just trying to be helpful?” 

Some people, mostly women, worry about leaving the house, anxious about having a panic attack in public.  As for the few elderly men who are agoraphobic, and stay shut in—all they have to do to get over that is to go into a men’s room, pull it out, and declare themselves a winner—that should do it for panic attacks for men, as for women, they’d better get some friends in low places.  They’ll cure you of worry, as those in low places really have something to worry about.

As for the women who worry about panic attacks and are agoraphobic and can’t get out of the house, well, they have happier marriages, as they’re stuck with the old man for company, and have to learn to put up with his shenanigans.

Cardiac phobias are common.  We worry about bodily symptoms and usually interpret them as more dangerous than they actually are.  Most of us inflexibly pooh-pooh any suggestion that there’s a psychological cause of our illness. 

Worry, as a cause for illness, is not a hot sell.  Let me tell you about one smart doctor and my illness.
When I was about sixteen, I had this horrific back pain that went on and on.  I could hardly stand erect it was so painful.  I complained about it all the time as it was excruciating to bend over to pick something up.

Mom said, “Growing pains.”

Dad joked, “Old age catching up with you.”

Finally though, after endless complaining Mom took me to a doctor.  The doctor took x-rays and said I had a curvature in my spine that made an operation imperative.”

But operations were expensive (this was before health insurance) so Mom took me to another doctor.  This doctor said, “A cast should do it.  For about a year.”

After that visit, I visualized myself clumping around school in a body cast, all alone, and worst—I’d be the laughing stock of the school. My back pain was gone in a week, never to return. A few decades back, asthma, ulcers, colitis, arthritis, hypertension and diabetes were believed to be psychosomatic too.  They still can’t figure out the biological mechanism for curing any of these illnesses with any accuracy.

Then again, if we didn’t have these ailments, maybe the medical world would need bailouts too? Everything we do has some pay-off for us.  What’s difficult is figuring what our pay-off is.  Do we like to worry?  Like, “what payoff did I get from my driver’s license worry?”  Gotta give that some thought.  

Worry is reinforced by the non-occurrence of the feared event.  When we seek reassurance from friends, employers, doctors, etc., we get a reduction in worry, but the only problem with getting reassurances, it elicits the demand for more reassurances.

It’s so relieving to be able to disgorge our worries like a clogged toilet finally unclogged and get the worry flushed down the drain.  Ah, but then we find something else to worry about.    



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