Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 590 Priorities

This is retirement talk. I’m Del Lowery.

We want to think about Priorities in Retirement in this episode.

Stories abound of people who exclaim that they just can’t seem to get anything done. There are just too many interruptions. They would like to be doing this but they just can’t seem to get enough time to do it.

Priorities are basic to movement. We have to know where it is we want to go. Then we can go there. Every parent knows this. That is why we try to “redirect” the attention of babies once they start crawling. We see them headed for the vase, or the pots and pans, or electric chords. The list is, of course, endless. We pick them up and say, “Oh, look what’s over here”. We turn their attention to something else – hopefully.

A guitar teacher I had a few years ago wanted to play and record a classical guitar disc.  I knew this for some time I wanted very much to hear it. She has been telling me she was going to make it for well over a year. Well, she hasn’t gotten it done.

Don’t get me wrong; she is a busy woman. But, she had always claimed to want to make this disc, but yet, it just didn’t happen. Something else always pops up to claim her attention: her business as a teacher of music, her role as a mother of a graduating senior headed off to college, her relationship with her husband. Something always took priority to making the disc. And perhaps it should.

Yet, she expressed admiration for my managing to conceive of the idea for a podcast on retirement and then to learn how to make it happen, and then actually make it happen. It didn’t seem like a huge deal to me, but it did to her. I replied that it was just a matter of priorities. She told me I needed to make this the topic of my next podcast.

We talked a bit about priorities. I have never been the kind of guy who could focus very long on any one thing. My life has been rather a pattern of jumping from one thing to another. So, I need some rules concerning priorities to help keep me on track.

Retirement brought this into focus for me. No longer does the 8 to 5 job hold our attention. No longer must we rise at dawn and go to sleep with the chickens. No longer must we limit our vacations to a schedule. We have freedom – to a degree – some of us drowned in it. We can’t function. We just can’t move. That may not be anything new – we may have been this way our entire life. Retirement does make us responsible for all of our time spent. We decide. Or should I say, we become the “decider”

When we retired, I thought about this and a list did emerge. Not a long one. I could even remember it: Family, friends, health or exercise, music, and community. Over the past thirty years these priorities have served me well.

I try to include them all in my daily schedule. It is not acceptable to just focus on one at a time. Others goals or projects tend to get slighted or are soon missing completely. I need a little balance in my life. I don’t like to skip.

My days have been broken down into phases that allow for all to flourish. Tai chi and exercise at the opening of each day provide for health followed by just a bit of reading for mental health. Then it is a couple of hours of music followed by an hour of biking or rowing or something physical. The afternoons are then free for community involvement. This is when I can work on projects – this podcast being the current one. The first year I learned what was needed to build and operate a recording studio, construct a website, and put together a podcast. I am not by nature computer inclined. As a matter of fact, I am reluctant to read directions, follow step-by-step, or remember where I have been and how I might return to that specific place. (I’m talking about computer stuff here. I never forget where a coffee shop is and how to return.) All of these attributes are necessary for computer literacy. It has been a struggle.  But, by knowing that I wanted to create a podcast and staying aimed in that direction the podcast become a reality. I also found someone who could come over and straighten me out when I just couldn’t get the computer stuff to work as I wanted. Later I learned to use Google Search or YouTube videos to find solutions. Of course that still leaves lots of hours in each day for family, friends, coffee shops and serendipity.

The importance of priorities don’t change much from when we were young children chasing after kitchen cupboards and electrical outlets. We just change direction a bit. It is the direction that must be kept in mind. We need to know what we really value and where we want to go. It is so easy to be drawn off course by television, social media, other people’s suggestions, or lack of plans.

Perhaps life without clear priorities is preferable. Accept whatever happens; sort of a Zen life; drift with the wind or the open road. I’m sure there is much to be said for that. It’s just a matter of priorities.

This is Retirement Talk: What to do with the rest of your life.

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