Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



                                              Episode 739 You Can Fix It

This is Retirement Talk.  I'm Del Lowery.

You can fix it. We all face this challenge over and over in life. As an example: I have been practicing the guitar for at least 35 years. I play all of those little background pieces that run a bit during these podcasts. I don't play well - but I stick with it - sometimes. Referring to a piece I was working on, my guitar teacher with the patience of a saint said, "You can fix it" and I knew I had a topic for this podcast. Music requires attention to be paid to detail and I am not a detail kind of guy. It is hard for me to slow down and look closely at anything. But the idea that I can fix it really appeals to me at the moment. Strange how it has taken almost 80 years for this idea to take root.

I had been trying to learn a piece by Francisco Tarrega called Capricho Arabe. It has a few fast passages that require speed, accuracy and tone control. I love the piece and want to play it. Attention must be paid to the smallest detail for it to sound pleasing to the ear.

She told me to get out the metronome and set it on the slowest settings. Obey the sounds omitted and the notes written on the page. Go so slow but feel each note, prepare for the stroke, get perfect placement on the string, relax the hand and fingers, hear each individual note. Ask yourself these questions: was it as you wanted? Was your hand relaxed? Can you feel tension anywhere in your body? Did the note ring as long as you wanted? Did it have a fullness and richness to it?

There are just twelve notes strung together in three measures. "Make a hash mark each time you play it,” she said. The next day do it again and mark them down with a different colored ink. And again the next day and so on. I should end up with a page filled with little various colored hash marks.

"Go back each day to the original speed a few times" she said. Increase the speed, always making sure that all desired qualities are present. "You can fix it" she said - and for the first time in my life I believed her. But it never did happen. I never learned it. I never fixed it. 

Life seems to always be presenting problems to us that require fixing. They may range from Climate Change, Pearl Harbor, Computer Error, losing our job or an unwanted pregnancy. Or of course there may be the flat tire, the unruly student, the mouse in the house or the rain coming in the window. Or it may be a personal relationship; a marriage, a friendship, a neighborly dispute. We can fix things. That is what we humans do. Some big things and some small things. They all need fixing at one time or another.

This is where attitude is important. Do we believe we can fix them or don't we? Some people have the confidence to believe in themselves and their ability to fix most anything. Some of us don't. Having self-confidence in our own ability is so very valuable in life. It is one of the most important attributes we can teach our children, our students or our friends.

I never learned that lesson very well. I was always good at throwing myself into almost any endeavor; I was game.  But I was quick to move on to some other grand scheme. "Good enough for the girls I go with", my father used to say. My wife on the other hand can slow down. Patience of Job. She does believe she can fix most anything. She has confidence. She can slow down and look close. Our strengths and weaknesses match up well. What one lacks the other possesses. Although I'm not really sure what my strengths are.

Time to slow down and fix something is available to us in retirement. We do not have to rush off, wake to an alarm clock, punch a clock, or get to bed. We do not have to do as we are told or expected. We have time to fix it if we so choose.

Retired people continually face demands of fixing it related to the world of Internet technology - like setting up and using this iPad as a word processor, learning how to operate an Apple TV, Roku, Skype, using computer programs to record sound or design and set up a web site. Ever demanding changes require eternal fixes. Challenges emerge on a daily basis.

Of course there are things or problems we can't fix and we need to recognize them and either get assistance or "go around". A scene from Shane the western classic by Jack Schafer always pops into my mind when I think of "going around". The scene focuses on a massive tree stump that the two heroes work to remove one day. They dig and chop and they dig and chop. They sweat the whole  day long. They put everything they have into clearing that stump. Strange, but I have always remembered the scene ending with one of them uttering the words, "If the stump is too deep go around". I would remember it that way. It is my way. Truth is they stayed with it and with strength, stamina and belief in themselves they dug it out. They fixed it.

This is Retirement Talk.











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