Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 588

Tai Chi and the Lost Wallet

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

Before I get into this episode I want to request your help. I got a request from a listener, Kim, who is going to retire soon. She has everything figured out about retiring except for health care. It is causing one big question, doubt and stress. Health insurance. What to do about health insurance between your retirement time and medicare. This gap is proving unsettling. She has it reduced down to three choices none of which sound good: buying on the open market and getting a part time job to pay for it, purchasing COBRA which is expensive and limited, or going without (not a good idea). What to do? She wondered if any of the listeners to these podcasts have discovered or developed another option that is better? If you have done something that works for you please let me know and I will include that option in an upcoming episode and we can help Kim and others going into retirement a little less stressed. And that is the way retirement should be: a little less stressed.

I've entitled this episode Tai Chi and the Lost Wallet.

I first published this over 10 years ago but have rewritten and updated it. I think it still illustrates the idea of practicing a form of exercise for your health and keeping other things in perspective. Good and bad sometimes strikes within minutes.

Brenda and I jumped on our bikes and took off for a ride along the Sea Wall in Vancouver this morning around 11. We try to bike for an hour or two most days. We hesitated because of the cool weather and gathering clouds but following our past experiences decided to go anyway, “When in doubt – go,” that’s our basic rule. It proved to be both good and bad.

Within minutes we came upon a solitary elderly Asian woman dressed in loose, black clothing, practicing Tai Chi. We stopped. She was so beautiful – framed against the blue water and large freighters waiting at anchor; dressed in black with long hair tied into a pony tail. Each movement was slow, measured, and flowing. She never stopped moving and yet it was so very slow that she seemed almost always on the edge of becoming fixed. Her flexibility and fluidity were inspirational. Everyone passing by looked back over their shoulder at her. We stopped and gazed from a distance: stood by our bikes and were transfixed. She would repeat some moves and then go right into something we had never seen before. She was still moving when we rode away.

Tai Chi has been a practice of mine for perhaps the last twenty-years. It started as an attempt to cure a bad back. The doctor said it was the sciatic nerve causing my grief. I had twisted like I shouldn’t and the pain was terrific. I'm sure many of you can identify. I remember not being able to put any weight on my left leg for a couple of days. Then with great effort I managed to hobble, all stooped over, into the doctor’s office. Drugs, physical therapy and rest seemed to have little effect. Surgery was the next step. Then I heard of this guy who treated the back through Tai Chi. Throwing skepticism out the window, I began my study. It became a life saver – and a way of life.

Just yesterday a large picture jumped out at me in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. It was a color picture in the center of the page of perhaps a hundred people dressed in loose white clothing doing Tai Chi. The article talked of a recent study that resulted in very positive results for people that do Tai Chi over other forms of exercise concerning enhancing the immune system – specifically combating shingles which effects about one our of five seniors. I never had shingles, but I have heard nothing good about having them. I think most of us retired folks would like to avoid them if we can.

I’ve read that millions of people do Tai Chi every morning all over China. I can understand why. When I took my first lesson in Tai Chi I swore that if it didn’t really help me that my first day would be my last. Now it must be well over 9000 days since that first day. Tai Chi remains a daily practice. That’s a long time.

My first teacher took me through 24 basicTai Chi moves and exercises that have lasted me all those many days. Now Brenda and I are taking lessons again. We met our new instructor in a video rental store. Her husband owns the store. We didn’t know that she had been a Tai Chi instructor in a Buddhist Temple here in Vancouver. When Tai Chi was mentioned in a passing conversation one day we got ourselves a volunteer teacher. We meet in a park; usually Sunday evenings.

The article in the paper reinforced my thoughts concerning the health values of Tai Chi. Seems like I regularly read of various other health benefits coming from a daily routine. But seeing the woman doing Tai Chi this morning, reminded me of the plain beauty of this ancient, meditative practice.

But as I stated in the opening statement, this was a bike ride that brought both good and bad. The bad part – I lost my wallet. Yes, and it was the day after I had been to the bank. A few hundred dollars and of course all of those cards: those cards that establish my identity as a person. Talk about a sinking feeling. And here I am in an age of identity theft and then I go and loose everything. Was it theft? Was it someone else's fault? No such luck. No, it was my doing – plain and clear. I couldn't shift the blame. I did not zip the pocket after putting my wallet into it.  I remember getting in a hurry to leave at the last moment and shoving the wallet in the bike shorts and heading for the door. I even recall thinking that I should secure the pocket, but didn’t. Carelessness, recklessness, stupidity – they all fit. I'm still not to old to do those.

I’m not sure seeing the exhibition of beautiful Tai Chi balanced out the experience of loosing the wallet. But in my mind I recall the beauty of the Tai Chi movements much more. I'd trade a wallet for it any day.

I'm sure there are other forms of exercise that have the same health effects and the same beauty. All that is necessary is to find one and learn to learn to love it.

This is Retirement Talk.

If you have questions, comments or questions contact And please remember to comment on the gap years and health insurance if you have an idea. It could help lots of people. Thanks in advance.


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