Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 521(308) Looking Ahead

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

There is a good reason our eyes and feet point in the same direction. We are designed to move ahead. Forward. Our stomachs are designed the same way. With little variance they are always craving the next meal. The morning after leaving a holiday meal stuffed to the brim we find ourselves breaking vows of abstinence and sitting down to a big breakfast. Our minds seem to work in similar fashion. We are always looking ahead trying to figure out how we might better ourselves in the future.

Retirement offers a new challenge to this tendency of looking ahead. We have never been down this road. We have our own little idiosyncrasies that may make our decisions different from anyone else. What works for one may not work for another. We need to prepare for an adventure.

What we do have working for us are our skills, attitude and habits that we have developed over a lifetime. We don't leave those behind the day we walk out the door. And we don't leave our imagination behind either. That is something that may have lain dormant during certain stages of life, but it can be resurrected with effort.

Skills that require reading and writing can easily be transferred to areas we may of never even heard of. My wife's reputation as a highly skilled cook is never challenged among our family and friends. I, on the other hand, only wash dishes in the kitchen. When I ask her how she thinks and then creates all of these varied dishes she says that she reads about them and then follows directions. "Anyone can do it," she claims. Perhaps it is my attitude that prevents me from acquiring this skill.

Working with our hands is another skill that opens many doors. The thing about working with the hands is that it is much more than that. It is really working with our mind at the same time. I know a fine woodworker and he does it to perfection on a daily basis. His work is so accurate and the product is absolutely beautiful. It takes skill with the hand, eye and mind.  

He, as well as my wife, have developed the habit of working with care. They pay attention to detail. They want to do the thing right. When the job is done - no matter what it is - it is done with a sense of pride and perfection. I, on the other hand, tend to rush through efforts or projects. I like to do this or that and then move on. "Good enough" my father use to say. I guess it took hold. I have a hard time trying to get something just right. We all formed habits and they just happened to be different. Luckily our children copied their mother’s example when it comes to working with care.

Imagination is the one factor that may lie unused and difficult to bring back to life. Our daily working life has a way of demanding little from imagination. We fall into habits of Monday to Friday work, establishing a career, raising children, establishing economic security and watching too much television. The imagination that use to guide our childhood play suffers a bad case of atrophy. We can no longer lie in sun and feel the warmth or take time to bend over and see what is on the ground or stare at the heavens and wonder at its mystery. We are busy.

I remember this feeling as we approached our own retirement. We wanted to do something different to initiate our life among the retired. We got motorcycles. His and hers. Neither one of us had ever ridden a motorcycle. We took a class from the motorcycle safety foundation, We learned how to turn it on or start the engine. We learned what clothing to wear and why. We learned how to start and stop and keep our balance. We learned to steer around orange cones in parking lots. We shipped my cycle to Seattle and the day we retired we flew to down and picked it up. We rode down the west coast and since then have enjoyed many ventures over the mountains, through the woods and across deserts.

Our retirement has found us venturing into many new areas of experience. We have studied ballroom dancing, Italian and Spanish, classical guitar and watercolors. We have worked with human rights groups, political and environmental groups. We have learned how to build furniture, additions to our home and how to create a website. Most important we have enjoyed many dinners with good friends and good wine.

Technology seems to present a special challenge to our imagination, skills, ability and attitude. We try to keep up and as you probably know that is no small feat. We are forever talking to someone about problems with our iPad, iPhone, Mini, desktop, audio program, Sonos, etc. All of this stuff opens many doors and it keeps the mind working - at a fairly high level.

It is still a challenge to keep the imagination alive.  In the past year a 78 year old friend of mine has sailed from Hawaii to Seattle, spent time in Mexico, explored a couple of towns in California he had always wanted to visit, sold his condo and bought another. He has three trips planned for the next few months; one to Columbia, and then another to Guatemala, and then in the spring a road trip to the Southwest. His imagination still seems to be working. He is looking ahead.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.  




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