Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 538 Focus on things you can control

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

I want to inject just a reference here to podcast number 534 entitled Advanced Directives. I received a note from a listener that read in part:

“After being awakened by a doctor's phone call that my 93 year old mother had fallen and hit her head, I jumped in my car. 

On the way, I was comforted by knowing I had her medical directive, on my iPad. 

The doctor gratefully read it and stated "we might have already done too much". But knowing how my Mother reacted to her daughter's medical directive , I felt going a little farther, was OK. 

My mother and sister were both horrified at the possibility of being trapped on a respirator. 

Afterwards people offered their condolences. 

I told them to

Look their kids in the eye. 

Tell them you love them. 

Then prove it by giving them your medical directive. 

I'm  here to say, it twice brought  our family great comfort.” 

And now for today's podcast.

Focus on things you can control is a phrase that resonated with me a few months ago. Of course it makes sense. That is one reason I never pay attention to the weather forecast. I can't control it. For example today was a bright sunny day. I donned biking shorts and luckily threw in a wind breaker before we left for our 11 o'clock ride. It seemed like I had made a mistake. I had not been able to see the wind from my window nor sense the temperature. But we were focused on a ride and in the end, it was worth it.

It was freezing. We were soon flying along False Creek in downtown Vancouver as the icy cold wind was at our backs. I had certainly misjudged. My wife was dressed for variable conditions and was toasty in long pants and a good windbreaker. My bike shorts gave little protection. The weather was making it's presence known.

It was spring and Queen Elizabeth Park is a converted quarry just a few miles from downtown. A big pit, jagged rocks, a waterfall, an irregular rim and beautifully landscaped flower gardens sit at the top of this big hill surrounded by acres of green grass and tall trees. Off one rim the city and mountains present a million dollar view. We had not been there all spring and knew that the season was moving along and certain flowers would soon disappear for another year. Should we realize the severity of the weather and abort our goal? Not a chance.

We rode on  - and what a wonderful ride it was. The trail left the water’s edge and headed up a long hill on Ontario St. a bike route. We found we were assisted as the strong wind helped us up the hill.

Within thirty minutes we reached our park. It was beautiful. We pushed our bikes up and down the quarry or park center. We took pictures. We kept moving, but slowly; we ambled. Then we mounted up and road home; into the wind but down hill. It was a great ride. We ended just a few blocks from our condo on a sunny patio, out of the wind, with a delicious lunch. There was no wind and we lingered over a great cup of coffee.

The weather was beyond our control but the biking wasn't. We had warmed up eventually, got some exercise, some great photos and a delightful lunch: a beautiful experience.

It isn't easy staying focused. Especially staying focused on what you want and not what someone else wants. It can be difficult to focus when just going for a walk or sitting in your house.

We were biking on a trail the other day and probably meet 10 people in one section that were all plugged in. They were listening to music, talking on the phone or texting someone. I wonder if that is what they had in mind when they went for a walk. The phone rings, the alert sounds indicating an incoming email or text. The focus is broken.  The mind cannot wander and restore itself. The re creation in recreation is gone.    

I use to hear stock market reports multiple times each day and yet I had no stock, didn't want any stock and really didn't care what the stock market was doing. I suppose a case  could be made that I should care but - like I should care several times a day. I don't think so.

How many times a day does one have to stay posted of the weather forecast? Seems like once a day might be plenty. It is hard to stay focused on enjoying the birds in the sky or the smell of the flowers when one's attention is constantly being jerked about.

For me the news is another example of an invasive species. I’ve talked about it in another podcast, but it is worth reconsidering. How many times a day must we hear the same broadcast or very nearly the same stuff? We can control this aspect of our life. In our house there is no news before noon and no news after dinner. Sometimes a bit seeps in through Facebook but it isn’t often. How can one have a good day when it starts with murder and mayhem? How can one get to sleep after getting a big dose of tragedy right before retiring. We don’t have to live that way.

Perhaps it is my age; I'm getting grumpy. I am getting pretty possessive of what has my attention. Retirement offers us time to pursue whatever we wish but sometimes our space and time gets invaded. It feels like Attila the Hun chasing after us. He shows up when we walk down the street or when we are sitting in a chair in our own house. We have to withstand invasion on a daily basis.

Focusing on what we can control takes some effort. It may not be easy but it is certainly worth the effort.

This is Retirement Talk.

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