Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 470(227) "Don't Waffle"

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

I received a note from Charlie Averill a long time listener this week who told me a retirement story I feel compelled to share.

First in response to my podcast on personal energy he reminded me of him and his wife's retirement secret method of maintaining high energy: They take a in your pajamas, under the sheets hour and one-half nap every day. It works. They get up early; stay up late and don't seem to run out of energy.

He went on. His father in law who lives alone, has an iPhone and an iMac. He just bought a new car. He is 97 years old. 97 years old. He might be old. He might be retired but he is certainly still living large. This has to inspire.

I've entitled the podcast for this week, "Don't Waffle".

A local radio station just aired an hour call-in program on graduation advice. Advice you followed or wished you had followed? Was that good or bad advice? The one I liked best was the line, "Make a choice. Don't waffle""

This is one of my pet peeves. But I know that I do it only some of the time. I like to think that I choose and then go with it. But that is one of those little truisms that can get you in trouble. It can get you moving but it can get you moving in the wrong direction. I know that was our method when we chose to retire. We made the decision and there was no waffling; not then and not since.

Words have a way of sometimes getting us into trouble; take that word waffling. That word has a negative connotation. No question about it. However, it might indicate a pause in the mind to consider or think of alternatives. In that case it might be a very good thing.

When I was in first grade they taught phonics in school as a way to learn how to read and spell. I remember Mrs. Schmedicha telling us the rules to memorize concerning i before e and a few other exceptions. At the wise age of 6 or 7 I remember thinking that if there are all of these exceptions why should I learn the rules. I refused. I made a choice and I didn't waffle. Since then, trouble has followed me all the days of my life. Spelling has never been my strong suite.

My freshman psychology teacher in college, Dr. Ball, asked us how we would know if learning had taken place. After all we were going to be teachers and it seems like we would need to know if our students were learning what it is we were trying to teach. We concluded that learning indicates change. The student has changed his or her thinking, perception, understanding or motor skills. "You never want to be afraid of changing your mind", he said. "It is a sign that learning has taken place."

How does that stand up under the admonition to make a choice and stick with it? Life has a way of passing on these little lessons that make all rules seem absurd at one time or another.

Waffling is a word that is often used in connection with politicians. And it is not used in a favoring fashion.  Others might call it compromising. I have a hard time with this. Waffling or trying to decide a difficult issue calls for considering all sides of an argument. Some see this in a negative light. Others might call it the essence of democratic politics.  

The art of compromise is a requirement for a democratic government. When compromise ends democracy dies. When politicians or elected officials take uncompromising positions change ceases to happen. We know laws are made to serve people. People change and conditions change. A changing world demands learning of new demands and changes. And making adjustments.

"Never be afraid to change your mind" my old professor said. "It is a sign learning has taken place".  I like that bit of advice from my old professor. The longer I live the more I learn that there is lots of room for me to make bad decisions. I could perhaps do better and someone else might be very correct in choosing the other road.

I have always thought that is what college does for many of us. It is where we learn that we don't know nearly as much as we think we do. We do not have all the answers, and in most cases, we don't even know the right questions. It is where many of us are launched on a lifetime of learning. Meaning a life time of changing our mind. A life time of making choices with the knowledge that our choice might be different tomorrow.

Retirement gives us time to step back and casually stroll across the reasons for our thinking. We can reevaluate our closely held beliefs and practices. We can change. My old professor would be happy. He always held to the belief that learning can take place all the days of our lives. Waffling might not be such a bad thing.

This is Retirement Talk with something to think about.

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