Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode  089 Slow Down and Pick Up the Pace

My college track coach use to use this phrase all the time: “Slow down and pick up the pace." I think he was really trying to say that we needed to relax, focus, and let our bodies move easily. It’s become more important to me in my retirement years. Creating and maintaining a retirement of your own choosing isn’t easy. The world is so very busy, outside stimuli is so great. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in many ways. Eternal vigilance is required to maintain one’s sense of self.

Catastrophe on a world class scale seems almost common place: cyclone, earthquake, flood, famine, or something of similar fashion. From climate change to oil shortage to mortgage crisis, the world reels in problems. 

Then of course there are the new movies, the new videos, the new music, the new clothes, the new books, the new winners. The list is endless. We listen; we watch. We’re bombarded with stimuli to take us outside of ourselves. We are endlessly informed and entertained. And this says nothing about the world of advertising that constantly assaults our senses.

As an example, at the moment I’m writing this episode while sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Vancouver. The people next to me are speaking a foreign language of which I am not familiar with. Cars accelerate quickly and noisily from a stoplight at the end of the block. Harley Davidsons obnoxiously roar by. People walk past as if in a stream that overflows its banks. Neon signs vie for my attention. A group of people encircle a martial arts demonstration just across the street. A drum beats. Stay focused. How to cope?

My wife and I find our retirement lives bound by certain rituals or habits that are intended to shield us from all of these stimuli. We rise at about the same time each day in a natural fashion – no alarm clocks allowed. There are no electronics until after lunch. Magazines and newspapers are for late afternoon and early evening. A window of two hours is opened in the evening for any video if there is nothing else to do. The last hour of the day is reserved for playing my guitar while Brenda reads. It sounds rigid, but it does allow for our own mind to maintain a sense self on a daily lives. We try to savor the daily walks in the garden, the serenity of a quiet living room, and the world that exists in our own minds.

In spite of our careful planning, interruptions occur. The phone rings; there’s a knock at the door. There’s a doctor to visit or a trip to be taken. Flexibility must be accepted without bitterness. Sometimes it isn’t easy. It takes directed effort to maintain any sense of rhythm and sanity.

Of course, attention must be paid to the world around us; especially family and our friends. Then there is the neighborhood, city, state, nation and the world. The trick is to not get overwhelmed. I keep thinking of the world-wide tragedies and the toll they take on everyone’s lives. I wonder if there is a limit to what we can take. In the old days everything was local. Tragedy struck and one dealt with it. Storms would invade and then pass. People would die and then time would march on. I’m not sure we’re genetically programmed to deal with daily doses of world wide tragedy, problems and trivia. I’m not sure we need to have our time consumed by, nor can afford to have our time consumed by movie star trivia or all of the sporting events that endlessly spew forth from our media.

Steal your time: steal your life. If one doesn’t take defensive action, we will have spent our days on earth without ever thinking about them. We all experience this at times. We get sucked into the computer and the next thing we know, hours have disappeared. We watch a movie, or a TV show, and time flashes by without notice. When our kids were little and wanted me to go to a movie, I would always respond with something like, “No, it’s like stepping into a black hole. You go into the theater at seven-thirty and come out at ten and say: “Where did the evening go?” I guess there is a time when escape is desirable. I just had a hard time with it.

It isn’t easy to maintain a sense of self and a sense of direction. The media and the commercialization of our society continually undermine it. They want our attention, our time, and our lives. Enjoying the retirement of our own choosing calls for all of the help we can get, and all of the strength we can muster. These are just some of the “tricks of the trade” that have helped us. I am always looking for suggestions.

This is Retirement Talk.




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