Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode  531 Stuck - Now What?


This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

It is no fun being stuck. I'm talking about not being able to move; being paralyzed, immobile, It can be physical, mental or emotional. I'm not sure which one is the worst. But it is probably whichever one you are in at the present time. Retirement can have this effect on us. We can feel strapped to our past or our present. We can't seem to conceive of a reason to do anything. We could just lay in bed all day and no one would notice. I often respond to questions about my retirement this way. "If I died no one would notice for several days." Well, hopefully my wife would notice but after that...

When I was a senior in high school my older sister lived 60 miles away from us. My younger sister wanted to visit her a few days and I volunteered to drive her there. We were in farm country -  in Iowa. The road was long; straight and in the distance I could see the color of the road change. Not being an experienced driver I just kept going assuming everything was fine. The road was pure mud and the car started to bog down. Soon the it came to a slippery, muddy stop; right in the middle of the road. I was stuck. What to do?

The car was a 1955 black and white Pontiac. I shifted into reverse and moved a few inches. Then back to first gear and rocked forward. The process was repeated several times without noticeable success. Frustration. What to do? Try the same thing again and again, and again. Soon we could smell something burning and the car refused to even rock.

We walked to a farmer’s house and begged assistance. We were soon towed out of the mud by this kind farmer with his tractor. We called our Dad and he came with a tow rope. I had burned out the clutch. Dad was not happy; nor was I. It was an expensive experience.

What did I learn: when you're stuck you might want to engage the mind before you engage the clutch and dig yourself in even deeper. I should have gotten out of the car. Walked around and looked at the mess, assessed the situation a bit and then after recognizing the depth of my stuckness I could have gone for help.

I like to think this is one of those rules that should be engraved on the inside of my eyelids. Card players have a similar rule when they are losing, "walk away". When losses start to accumulate it doesn't pay to be stuck at the table. I just read about a widow who inherited from her husband, the founder of the chain, Jack'-in the Box. She gambled away over a billion dollars in the last few years. I would say she was stuck; addicted. She couldn't stop. The article pointed out that her losses averaged 300 thousand dollars a day for years.

This seems to be the necessary first step: assess the situation and recognize your stuckness. I think we are all pretty good at this by the time we retire. We know when we are spinning our wheels. We know that nothing is happening in our lives. We know we need a change. Perhaps the problem isn't our being stuck, The problem is getting unstuck. Deciding what to do? Which way to turn?

If we are lucky enough to have family or friends around we could ask for their comments or ideas. We could brainstorm with them or brainstorm with just ourselves. We could get out a piece of paper and write out the nature of stuckness. And then write out suggested changes without criticism and without limits. Just lay them out like an unending snow storm; fill the page.

This is not as easy as it seems. It requires our time and our mind. We are not use to engaging the mind on something that requires such focus and honesty. We are not use to letting our mind roam over all of the possibilities of life in the next few weeks, months or years.  Most us us just let life come to us. The phone rings and we go to lunch. The phone doesn't ring and we stay home. Someone else suggests a trip, a movie, a hike or a book and we are moved to consider a change. Sometimes becoming requires our own initiative. It isn't easy to create change.

I keep thinking that it should get easier as we get older. We are not stuck in our job, stuck in our house, stuck in our town. But we can get stuck in retirement. We can find ourselves strapped to our old habits; limited to old haunts,

One thing about becoming unstuck - we can not be sure what awaits us. Which way will we swerve? Which way will we go? Will it be better or worse? These are all questions which may not be answered before we jump. I knew a guy in Alaska who sold everything and moved back home to Maine. In one year’s time his was back in Anchorage. HIs new life wasn't what he thought it would be. We all know it at is possible. We can go from one mud hole to another.

Of course we don't really have to do this. We can just stay safe. Stay still. Stay stuck. Not such a good idea. Not unless you can learn to love it and decide that you are no longer stuck but doing exactly what you want with your life.


This is Retirement Talk.


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