Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 226 Whose problem is it?

Coffee, conversation and community: a few days ago my wife, and I were walking to our local coffee shop; a favorite time of day. Winter rains had stopped. Leaves had popped and sun bathed our trail that ran along small stream. We had drifted into a conversation about our children and grandchildren. I expressed concern about the current economic downturn and how it seemed to be affecting them and could be life changing down the road. That is when my wife hit with the little line, "Whose problem is it?"

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Every stage of life presents it's own problems: retirement is no exception. We worry about things. What things? Children. Grandchildren. Finances. Our friends or lack of. Our health. Paying for our health care. Our parents that may be requiring more and more of our time and effort. Sometimes we reach a bit further to include our neighbors, neighborhood or community. And when we really stretch we worry about our state, country or universal problems. Is there any end to the problems? 

Seems like that might offer a great business opportunity. I can just see the sign, or signs: Solving Your Problems, or Problem Clarification, or Help. I'm sure better choices for names can be imagined.

This is a major reason why I always take my news latter in the day and preferably in print. Problems have a way of taking up space in our mind. It is hard to enjoy the call of the early morning robin if you are listening to the details of the latest world tragedy or the rants of political officials. I lead a dedicated human rights worker on a beautiful walk in the woods one time and I swear she didn't see a thing. Her mind was locked away in some forgotten cell. Cries of torture seemed to be with her all of her waking hours. I understand she is now retired. She more than served her time.

We have all experienced listening to beautiful music and then realizing we haven't really been listening at all. Our mind has drifted - and more often than not it has drifted to a problem. Something is bothering us.

Life makes many demands that requires our attention. It's the problems that don't require our attention that I want to consider. For that is a problem for each and all.

We have to learn what is our problem and what is not our problem. We have developable a sense of unity with all of mankind. I think of the famous line from a John Donne poem No Man Is An Island, "Every man's death diminishes me". I write this on the very day that Osama bin Laden was killed. It saddened me. I know he did terrible things and I know that he had to be apprehended and punished. But at the same time I wonder at what made him behave as he did? Did he create Al Qaeda out of his innate sense of madness? Or were there other reasons for striking out? Why are people so vicious to one another? What makes people celebrate his death? I feel no need to celebrate. It has been a sad affair from beginning to end.

Even in the midst of these world problems I would like to celebrate each day. Smell the roses, hear the music, see the colors and inhale life itself. That is a problem and it is my problem - and yours.

We have to sort through what we can do and what we can't. We have to discover how much of our life we must devote to fighting the ills of the world and how much time and effort we want to devote to enjoying the fruits of our situation.

There is  no hard and fast rule on this one. Historically we were not privy to all of the problems of the world. In the old days things might be serene and wonderful locally for sometime and then bad things would happen. They would  have to be dealt with. Then the days would return to sun  coming up and sun going down. The sheep would be in the meadow and the cows would be in the corn.

Modern  communication makes this scenario impossible today. When problems occur around the world they become known to us tomorrow, or in some cases, today. We must  not only deal with problems that are very close to us but problems that are international in scope. I'm not sure we have the psychological capacity to deal with all of the problems in the world all the days of our life.

I am not advocating disregard of problems in the world but I am suggesting the need to be a bit selective in those we want to assume. It seems like there should be a time when we may choose to retire from more than work. 

Perhaps I'll take a moment and write this on a poster that can be placed where I might see it each and every day, "Whose problem is it?" 

This is Retirement Talk.




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