Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 735  It's Magic

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Ever want to be a magician? A few years ago we were at the  Yaletown Brewhouse in downtown Vancouver having our usual Sunday evening pizza and beer. The in-house magician was working the floor. We have seen him there many of the Sundays we held to this ritual over a thirteen year time span.  He was entertaining a table of six that included three children. He held an empty hand out flat and placed a scarf over it. He then reached under the scarf and pulled out a glass of beautiful red wine. Now how did he do that? He had one of the kids hold a red ball in his hand. Close it and then open. Two balls. Close it and open - four balls. Amazing! The table roared. The magician held a deck of cards with blue backs.  He talked for a few seconds and then the backs of the cards had turned red - right before our very eyes. They laughed at every trick. They applauded. And they tipped him when he completed his last trick. They loved the guy.

Who doesn't want to be loved? Maybe retirement is the time to become a magician. Or whatever else you dreamed of when you were a child. Or whatever you dream about now that you are retired. I'll bet with just a few years of practice most of us could learn to pull rabbits out of hats.

Life has a way of snatching our dreams away. We fantasize all sorts of things when we are young - we will be cowboys, astronauts, pilots, lawyers, mountain climbers, private detectives, explorers, authors, etc. The imagination knows no limit.  Then real life seizes power. We take a job to pay the rent, make the car payment, or finance our college education. We get involved in a career, a marriage, a family, a house. Dreams become the only thing that magically disappear.

Then we retire. Rent, car payments, college education, career, marriage, family and house are no longer primary challenges. We find ourselves in a position where dreams may re-emerge. They may re-emerge. But they don't have too.

"What do I do?" is a question I often hear from the newly retired. They appear dazed. They tend to just spin around or sit in place. Time sitting in front of the TV may lengthen. Time visiting their own children may lengthen.But the idea of launching themselves anew is missing. The childlike ability to dream has disappeared. It is as if some magician had snatched it away.

What can we do to awaken - to imagine ourselves in a new space or new role? How can we launch ourselves into a new world with exciting challenges and enjoyable experiences?

Dreams don't evolve out of thin air. We see things, hear things, and read things that stimulate our imagination. We meet people and hear stories that trigger something inside us. We have a gut reaction. We wish for just a moment that we might have that same experience. Then the thought disappears. We forget it. We move on down the all to familiar path.

These little exciting moments need to be retained; cast in bronze, kept in view. My  iPhone serves that purpose for me. It has this little app called utilities that includes a microphone for recording. I just whip it out of my pocket and jot a note to myself about strange thoughts that have an appeal. I'm sure a note pad could serve the same purpose.

We could use classes in dreaming or imagining ourselves doing something else with our lives. We could schedule time to just kick back and close our eyes and let our mind drift. What would we really like to be doing? Where would we like to be? What would we like our life to be like?

One major problem in creating these new dreams is the present baggage we now carry. We have a car, a house and other stuff that can drag us down like an anchor. We hesitate to throw them out. We have a comfortable chair right in front of the TV and it makes it easy to stay put.

I remember leaving a job in the John Deere Waterloo tractor factory at age 21. I was trying to make some money so I could return to college. My fellow factory workers told me that I would never return to college. "Why should you?" they said. "You make more money now than you ever will as a teacher". Which was true.

But, when the whistle blew on my last day I never went to the locker room for my coat, lunch pale or anything else. I left instantly and never looked back. I remember the day my teaching career ended. I left the minute my job was completed and never went back.   Not for any reason.  And I remember leaving Alaska after living there twenty years and as we drove away from the house we never looked back.

I recently received a letter from a loyal listener to these podcasts. He worked as an attorney for 58 years: till he was 84. He recently retired and is off. He said he doesn’t  miss his job one bit. He moved on. Living his dream.

Leaving behind your past just isn't that difficult. It just takes a little gumption. My father used to say "Get up and do something with your life". That is where dreams come in. We need to nurture our imagination and dreams all the days of our life.

This is Retirement Talk.

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