Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 687 Covid-19

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

It is past time that I try to think a bit more critical about our present pandemic and how it affects retirement. No question that it has affected the entire world in tragic ways. We all feel the pressure and changes in our lives. We are flooded with articles, reports, news and opinions concerning the virus. I would like to say that no one is taking the issue lightly but we all know there are people who refuse to accept the reality of the situation. They refuse the statistics and the science. The rest of us have to deal with the tragedy as it is.

A longtime, devoted listener recently wrote to me, “It does not do me much good to imagine interesting projects to embark upon when I have no idea when or if I will ever be able to again be able to safely stay in a hotel or take an airplane or go anywhere (even down the street) where there are groups of people present. For those of us in retirement, I think this is a huge psychological problem and one that you might comment upon in one of your podcasts.”

Well, I sit and stare at the screen. How to respond? I am not a psychologist. I have lived and thought seriously about how one should live their life for many years: no more, no less. I have experience in living. My response has to be prefaced with that confession.

Attached to the wall in this same room are a few little thoughts in which I have found special meaning over the years. One of them reads, “Sit loose in the saddle and come to terms with the idea of change”. I have always found it valuable when the tide turns or life interrupts me with something I had not anticipated. Covid-19 would qualify.

Now I know that little quotes are easy to say and even memorize but not so easy to actualize. This is just such a time when we must all adjust to change. We can complain and sit in exasperation. But it is what it is. We cannot put Covid-19 in a can, lock it up or change the effect it has on our lives. We are all working within a different world right now. Booking the hotel, flying on the plane, or joining the group down the street is not wise. It will not lead to a more fulfilling retirement. It may easily lead to very abbreviated life. We are sitting in the saddle but the direction of the horse we are on is of a sudden taken a turn.

“What's done is done”, reads another little tidbit attached to the board in this room. We need to reconsider what is now possible. I am reminded of the ancient myth of Sisyphus and his rock that he is condemned to push up a hill everyday for eternity only to see it roll back down every evening. Each morning it greets him at the bottom of the hill and requires his total effort to push it back up. His only way to overcome his impossible position is to learn to love his rock. Yes, it is absurd but it is the only way to live. We see him press his check against the rock in the morning and lean into the life, or death, he has been given.

It would seem to me that we retired folks have to readjust our mind and our actions if we want to “enjoy” the life we have left to live. We need to reevaluate the direction possible for us to travel. We need to reevaluate the actions possible for us to take. We need to lean into what we can.

Once again this brings us to another moment in life where we are forced to take a stand. Our spouses or partners can not do it for us. Nor can our children or best friends. We must choose. Choose to live a different life. And then throw ourselves into it. We must will ourselves to power. We must will ourselves to power in the world in which we live, not the one that just passed us by. Not easy but doable.

My thoughts on this matter have evolved over a lifetime of consideration of what we should do with our lives. These thoughts have taken hold through reading, listening and experiencing life with an emphasis on thinking about what I was doing with each day. The virus has actually had little effect on my own daily activity.

I chose to practice a musical instrument over thirty years ago. It is an activity that can be done in a small space, take endless hours, and bring a continuing challenge. There is no end. It is in the movement on a daily basis that brings what joy is possible. I would not wish to change direction on that one. This is in agreement with Spinoza's thought about happiness and that it can only come from movement in a direction that is greater than that which existed before.

I would encourage anyone to realize the benefit of choosing a path that is possible considering the conditions under which we live. When people ask me if I am planning any trips or staying in any hotels the answer is “No”. These are not possible right now.

If they ask me if I am reading any good books, playing music, exercising regularly, watching some good videos, taking some quality walks (seeking our forest bathing), enjoying delicious dinners, engaging in pleasant conversation with a few friends over lunch in the yard (maintaining social distancing), or maintaining connection with my children and grandchildren over the internet the answer is “Yes. It is the best I can think of.

Previous circumstances in life will affect us all differently. We all sit in our own saddle. The twists and turns that now present themselves to us all leave a different impression. The only thing that is universal is that we have to choose.

We have to make some adjustments to fit the world in which we live. It seems to me that is all we can do. We must learn to love our rock. This is one of those situations where we have to each make decisions about how we want to live our life. It may not be easy but we don't want to get caught in Waiting for Godot.

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