Episode 736 Lists
This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.
Many years ago in a far off distant land I read an article in LIfe Magazine about a guy who made a list of one hundred things to do before he died. He was just a teenager. And he had the imagination of a teenager so his list was filled with adventurous items. Explore the Amazon, the Congo and Nile rivers, hunt big game animals in Africa, jump out of an airplane, fly an airplane, go to college, speak a foreign language, write a book, etc. etc. I don't really remember them all but I was impressed. Especially since now he was older and he had done them all. He had done them all and had since added new challenges.
In l970 I started a high school social studies class entitled "The Future". It was based on Alvin Toffler's book, "Future Shock". I thought it was important for students to consider just what the world might look like in twenty years, forty years or even sixty years when they would be winding down or retiring. I wanted them to consider the world in which they lived and what that world might become.
We made lists. They thought about their own personal future and tried to think about what they would like to accomplish in their own lifetime. I tried to stimulate their imagination and stretch their minds with talk of computers, cheap air travel, massive cities, and the need for the acceptance of continual change in their lives. How will you deal with change? Little did we realize how fast the change would come and how it would maintain an ever increasing pace just in the computer world alone.
The list they made went into an envelope with an address of someone whom they thought would remain at the same address for at least 10 years: perhaps grandparents, an aunt or uncle, some close friend, ect. Then they put an outrageous amount of postage on the letter and I collected them and mailed them out ten years later. The lists were to serve as a reminder of possibilities and youthful dreams.
My wife and I were teachers and not students but we made a similar list. We did add a twist to our lists. Yes, we sat down in our living room one day and took out blank paper. We must have spent a few hours working on our lists. The only rule was that we could not talk or look at the other person's list. We worked in silence. I don't think we reached one hundred but they were long lists.
Then, and only then, after the lists were complete did we exchange them and open ourselves to conversation. I remember reading things about my wife that I did not know. I recall saying several times, "You want to do that? Well, you should do it." Or, "We can do that". "We can do that this weekend." Or, “We can do that this summer." The letters served as windows into each other's mind.
We never exactly worked off of the lists but we did keep them in mind. A few hours ago I asked her where the lists were and she said she didn't know. For many years I kept mine in my desk drawer but I don't think it is there now. I suppose it is in a file cabinet or somewhere safe. I'm sure we never threw them away. I'll have to browse around.
The list did become valuable. It forced us to think about what we really wanted in life and then share it with each other. We sometimes remind each other of things on the list: study a foreign language- we did that with three different languages, travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, take bicycle trips, motorcycle trips, hiking trips, raise good kids. The list went on and on: listen to good symphony orchestras in person, paint watercolors, garden, play a musical instrument, have many good conversations over dinner and wine, etc. As the list went on the items seemed to become more and more dear. We never check them off but I do think most of them have been realized.
Now-a-days people refer to it as a bucket list. I guess that is taken from some movie that I haven't seen. It was important in giving us direction when we felt the need. But I always thought equally important was the peak into each other's mind. It brought us closer together.
Retirement is a time when a list might be as important as ever. As we enter the latter stages of life our time becomes more important. That is why we have a tendency to slow down. We don't want to rush life. Our list today would be a bit different than it was when we were thirty. It might now include: take a daily nap, strap ourselves to a rocking chair, take a walk, engage in longer conversations, take a long road trip, or linger in a coffee shop. We can pause to enjoy the moment. Every moment.
Making a list is not my favorite thing to do. We don't operate off of daily lists. What is important springs naturally into being. By this stage in life most of our exotic, erotic and erratic challenges are celebrated by reflection. We do not continue our assault on youthful challenges. We are retired. We have different priorities. What is important has changed. But if you haven't got a living list in mind you might find one in writing to be valuable.
This is Retirement Talk.