www.retirementtalk.org                        retirement podcast                    retirement lifestyle                senior lifestyle                


                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

                                           Episode 166 Thoughts that Go Back And Forth


Multitasking just seems to violate all principles of retirement. We are suppose to slow down and take life a little easier. Dick Smith talks about some of his conflicts and solutions to the problem.

In 1965 as part of LBJ’s War on Poverty I worked as a research assistant at a market research company for a Community Renewal project in Honolulu. It was mostly collecting and charting descriptive statistics like health and income data in selected neighborhoods. We scanned the US census and the local health department for information and compared it by neighborhood. The end product was a report to the government to get grants for improvements. We also worked for commercial accounts, interviewing people for their food and product preferences and we did surveys of radio listeners that were used to set advertising rates

I was provided an electric typewriter on which I learned to type. I can concentrate fairly easily but I have trouble with handwriting while thinking. My thoughts race ahead and my script becomes unreadable. In typing I make many mistakes on the first draft but I can correct them after getting the idea down. If I slow down and concentrate on accuracy, I lose the thread of my thought.

Elsewhere in my life I am not a multi-tasker in the sense of doing many things simultaneously. In the course of a day I do many things- write, garden, repair the fence, drive to the library, walk to the beach, etc. but I cannot read, write, carry on a conversation and listen to radio or watch TV at the same time like so many younger people do.

I don’t like to talk on the telephone. I can’t see the caller and lack clues to his reaction. Casual conversation is not easy for me. I prefer to discuss a topic or idea or explore an emotional reaction with others. I like the format of the Memoir group that concentrates on one theme at a time and provides interaction within the group. There is enough structure to keep me involved and it is flexible enough to allow creative expression.

An autistic young woman I know greets everyone with the same short speeches. “Hello, how are you today. The sun is shining today. I will go to my class today.” She has been taught to say these phrases but their meaning is unclear. I nod cheerfully and she finishes her greeting and returns to her job in the restaurant. I have a similar limited stock of friendly greetings for store clerks or wallflowers at parties. I am always glad when they accept responsibility for directing the conversation. I am a good listener and questioner but I don’t always know what to say.

My problem may be the paralysis of analysis like the man who was greeted with “Good morning.” and responded “I wonder what he meant by that?” Writing helps. I write a letter to the editor each month that helps me to formulate my reactions to the news of the day. I also write some short essays for “Retirement Talk.” It helps me sort out my attitudes about growing old with my senior companions. The most enjoyable writing I do is collecting my memoirs.

Others in the memoir group often start at the beginning and proceed through childhood, school, youthful adventures, marriage, family and career to retirement. My inspiration jumps from one era to another and I am surprised when I try to put them in chronological order that they are often contradictory. If I am ever to have a continuous narrative, it will have to be rewritten to make any sense.

Sometimes I feel a vague urge to express myself. I sit down at my computer and start to type. I can then recognize what underlies my discomfort and focus my thoughts. My computer is a great resource in which I store all my ideas and fragments of analysis. When I get frustrated with a recalcitrant thought, I can write it out and store it away for revision in a better moment. Sleeping on it often produces the solution.

This behavior is often called absent-mindedness. The absent-minded professor is thinking so hard about an idea that he is unaware of his surroundings. I try to limit my anti-social concentration to my computer and reading time. I have lived alone for short periods and enjoy it for a while but I really like to discuss matters with friends including my friendly computer.


Dick Smith has been my Guest.