Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 523 (310) Never too old to change

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

"Look at your fingers" my guitar teacher said this morning. "See how those joints all result in little lines or creases running across your fingers. Look at them." I held my hand out, palm up. You can do the same. "See the lines at each joint? If you place your finger over the string right where that line is it will always buzz. You want a good, clean, clear sound. You don't ever want a buzz." She ended with, "You must pay attention to every little detail".

Detail has never been my forte. Not in anything. As a member of the retirement community I find it most challenging and interesting to try to change this age old habit. Old habits become part and parcel of who we are but that doesn't mean that they have to stay. That doesn't mean that we have to stay the same as we have always been. Because we are retired; because we are older; doesn't mean we can't change. We can still pick our battles.

My old professor in psychology of education taught that change was part of the definition of education. He would say, "As a teacher you need to know if any learning is taking place. How can you tell? You need to ask yourself if any change has taken place. If it has, then education has taken place."

I'm not sure how this explanation would stand up in todays world but I still like it. That is why I can claim that we can always change. We can always learn something new. We can change old habits. We can change personalities. We can change ourselves. It seems like I should almost say, "This I believe".

Of course change may not be easy. One of the most difficult aspects of achieving the change is accepting the challenge. In other words; saying to yourself that you want to change; you want to learn something new, you want to be different, It means throwing away part of the way you are; the way you have become over many years; the person that has gotten you this far. Do you really want to do that?

Once accepting the challenge or need for change it require that you step out on the edge and commit yourself to this new person. A person that does pay attention to detail. A person who does refrain from monopolizing the conversation, a person who does exercise, a person who does smile and greet even strangers on the street, a person who does control their weight, a person who does try to see the bright side: a person who does place their fingers on the string in just the right position. My instructor said, "What do you think? Do you think good players just put their finger on the strings without thinking about exactly where they are? Well, they do think about it. They all think about it. It doesn't just happen automatically."

"I'm up to thirty seconds in my running" a friend said two nights ago. We had not seen each other in some time and she was recovering from three set backs in maintaining good health. She had some disease where all of her hair fell out, she had a car crash and then a guy fell down a stairway and landed on her foot. The hair fell out, the back was injured and the foot was broke. Now she is running. "It is a start" she told me with pride. She is going to start again.

I love to see that kind of thing. My old high school psychology teacher advised us to always be reading a book; a real book. Not just a magazine, a newspaper, or some light quick read but a real book written by a good writer. She said we didn't need to read it quickly or we didn't need to read a lot; but we needed to continue to read something that will require thinking - every day. "Always have a book going. Read a little even if it is just a page or two a day. That may be enough to keep your mind alive all the days of your life," she said.

I've always taken her advice to heart. It is always possible to squeeze in just a few pages a day. I remember a winter in Alaska when I tried to read a book a day. I lasted a few months until I realized what an idiotic thing it was to do. Then I went to ten pages a day. That made a lot more sense. Now my books come with locations and not pages numbers so I don't really know where I'm at. I do know that I squeeze in a bit every day. I do it early in the morning so it doesn't get slighted by something more "important".

For me, it is the details. I still stumble along in most things. But my guitar brings focus into my effort on a daily basis. It has now been twenty-five to thirty years of this challenge and it remains just that. Though the change is slow it does happen. Spinoza would love it. According to him, it is that ever changing motion in a positive direction that brings happiness. He convinced me.

Though retired we can still change.   

This is Retirement Talk.

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