Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 233 Take a Risk

Beethoven's fourth movement of his fifth symphony rolls along at a fast pace. The conductor's baton moves. There are big movements. Then there are slow, smooth sweeps. The music and baton puncture the air. The conductor turns and twists towards one section and then another. He smiles, he frowns. But most of the time he smiles. He jumps up and down. His legs shake like a rock singer. His body is in constant movement.

The finale approaches. He swings his arms; the pace quickens. The arms pump up and down wildly. The baton flies out of his grasp and out of sight. He continues to move but now his face breaks out in a huge smile. He's laughing. He steps a bit too far to the side and falls off the podium. He rolls on the floor just as the last few beats of the music sound. He continues to roll: stomach, side, back.  He ends the performance on his stomach kicking the floor and laughing.

We cheer. The conductor who has performed magnificently is three years old. His name is Jonathan. He has just given us a lesson in the beauty of taking a risk and living at the moment. 

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

The opening describes a recent video on YouTube of a youngster conducting a recording of Beethoven. Everyone who has seen it while looking over my shoulder has had the same reaction. A big smile accompanied by laughter and overwhelming sense of seeing life lived as it should be - exciting.

There is a lesson here for all of us whether we are retired or not. Risk taking is where life rises to its highest level; when we are challenged and step forward; when we throw ourselves into the present moment and risk failure and tempt success. This is when we overcome ourselves. We break ourselves. We become greater than we were before we leaped into the arena.

It is easy to forget this lesson as we grow older. "I don't like the tension. My nerves won't take it. I don't like being put on the spot." All of these reasons are given for avoiding risk taking. We tend to sit back. Turn on the TV and tune out the exciting challenges of life. It is safe. And it is. Of course, it is also boring.

Retirement itself involves a degree of risk. We don't know if we will be happy or not. We don't know if we will have enough income to live comfortably. We don't know if we will have enough income to last until our death since we never know how much time we have yet to live. We don't know if we will be bored to death and wish we had continued in our job of many years. In many cases we don't know what exactly we will do in retirement to keep ourselves excited about living.

One of our first ventures in retirement came on the saddle of a motorcycle. And it was an adventure. We wanted to do something we had never done in regular life to celebrate our entrance into the life of retirement. We picked motorcycles. Risky, yes. Exciting, definitely.

We had never been on a motorcycle. We had ridden horses. We had biked for years. We had taken a cruise (never to be endured again). Motorcycles seemed like a reasonable choice. We took a class offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation: how to start the bike, how to sit on it, etc. We each learned how to ride. Then we bought motorcycles. Brenda rode hers perhaps a few hundred miles before she gave it up. She just didn't feel comfortable - or competent.

I bought an old BMW and we rode two-up for years. We rode from Seattle to Palo Alto for our first long ride. She booked B&Bs all the way down the coast and we wore leather to our son's college graduation. Back to Seattle we rode where I threw away my return ticket to Alaska and continued on up the Alaskan highway. It was the first of four runs on this long, lonely, beautiful stretch of road. Then there were rides to Death Valley, the Grand Canyon. the Midwest, Montana, and Montana again.
Was it risky? Yes. Was it fun? Definitely. Did we fall? yes. But we did live through it. Would we do it again? In a heart beat.

We sold our big road bike several years ago and now have a medium sized bike that we ride around town on occasion. We never take it out of town but after so many years of taking risks we have decided to minimize that one. Maybe that is a mistake.

Risks come in different forms. For some it might be learning a foreign language, running for public office, going public with your art work, relocating after retirement,  sailing around the world, publishing your first book, going public about political beliefs, getting a divorce or getting married.

The commitment is the thing. Picking something and then going after it. When we step out on the edge - that's when the risk comes into play. When we decide to go for it. Whatever it might be. When we step on the podium - like Jonathan - and bring that baton down on a project we start our own piece of music. The key has to be to continue with the effort and enjoy it. Jump up and down, smile, laugh out loud, slow down, speed up, turn this way and then that way. And if things go wrong it won't hurt if we fall on the floor and laugh on our back, laugh our side and laugh on our belly. That is probably best of all. We all know that there is no bliss that can compare to a belly laugh for it is then that we are truly laughing all over.

This is Retirement Talk.



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