Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 376(068) Habits

My father-in-law always drank a beer before dinner. Said it was a habit; couldn’t stop; didn’t want to stop. He got me started. Not drinking beer. I got started on that one long ago all on my own. He got me started having one before the evening meal. It tasted so good at the end of a work day, or, any other kind of day. Years went by. It became a habit. I enjoyed it. The years pasted and the pounds accumulated. I recently stopped the habit – and the pounds – they have stopped accumulating. That is a good thing for a guy my age. Along with retirement comes slowing of our metabolic rate. Our body isn’t running as fast as it use to. We tend towards gaining weight. I don’t like that. So…I’m trying to develop a new habit. Gone is the evening beer. That isn’t a lot to ask – not really. And I know that the pounds have started to fall away. Now if I can just hold on to this habit. That will be a good thing.

This is retirement talk. I’m Del Lowery.

“We don’t have good habits because we are good,” Aristotle said. “We are good because we have good habits.” That line sticks in my mind from somewhere in the past. I sometimes get it confused and have to think about it, but it is worth memorizing. “We don’t have good habits because we are good, but we are good because we have good habits.”

Retiring is a time of change. We are forced to change our routines and the concept of who we are.  We can become something different than we have been. Which direction will we go? That is the question. With a little thought and some effort this is a time new habits can be acquired.

Those of us who exercise regularly know that once the habit is established it is a hard one to violate. We have to exercise on a regular basis; a daily basis. Of course, we all know that exercise is good for us. Continuous articles in the paper report endlessly studies that support the practice. The latest one I read claimed that it keeps our skin much younger. We look younger. I had never heard of this before.

Advertisers appeal to this basic, “truth” constantly. We hear people saying, “I need to exercise more" or, “I know I should, but…”. It doesn’t seem hard, or difficult, to those that have developed the habit. In our house, when the clock strikes eleven in the morning everything is just dropped. It is time to bike, row, lift weights, go for a walk….something where we are moving. By the time people retire the importance of health takes on new importance. We know that without good health nothing much matters.

We are currently in a rowing challenge with our kids and families; one in Alaska and the other in California. It is sponsored by Concepts 2; a rowing machine company. We all bought these things several years ago and every January the company starts the year off with a rowing challenge. It is the “Big Dippers”(family that live in Alaska)  verses the “Outsiders” (family who don’t live in Alaska). The race is heating up. We row and plug our numbers into the computer every day. Our hope was that if we would all row, day after day, at the end of the month the habit may be well established. It worked. We have done this for several years and the habit seems to be well entrenched.

My high school psychology teacher told us that we should develop a habit of reading at least one book each month. Now that doesn’t sound like a lot, but – months can slip by without any books being read.  Other things slide in and steal our time. We get swept away. A few years ago I vowed to overcome this little habit of letting reading slide.

I knew my psych teacher was right. I should have the reading habit, but… So one day I thought I will try to read at least 10 pages every morning – before breakfast. Not during the day. Not in the afternoon. Not in the evening. Things have a way of getting put off. Then the day is done; and no reading has happened.

This early morning habit of reading has been a good one. My psych teacher was right, without books, life would be a mistake.  After a beginning of the day ritual of Tai Chi and shooting a few baskets my next moveI is to the couch along with my current book. I must admit to having the thought daily that this must be what heaven is like.  It is such a great feeling stretch out in silence and let my mind get transported into another world for twenty to thirty minutes. It is a true joy.

Established good habits remind me of a story a friend recently told me. Raymond Chandler wrote some of the best American detective  or mystery stories. My friend said that Chandler didn’t start writing until he was 45. He decided to sit down four hours each day and write or do nothing. He wanted writing to become habitual. He vowed to do absolutely nothing else; no music, no sounds, no company, no phone, etc. He wanted to become a writer. He did established the habit and it lead to him, in fact, becoming a writer; a great writer. Retirement is a great time to establish new habits.

This is retirement talk.

Ps: In all honesty the old habit of having a beer before dinner has returned. My wife and I split one. Just a little touch of evil - for good measure.



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