Episode 745 (296) Recognition
This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.
The world is not made for the elderly or the retired. We have a way of disappearing. No one sees us walking down the street. Our time has no value. No one pays us to work. No one listens to us. Real conversations are rare. We move, or are moved into retirement communities or retirement homes where we do not interfere with the world of the young. Popular culture focuses on the youth. Life goes through a continuing process of replicating itself. Of course that is good - in a way. But hard to accept when you are the one being discarded.
This all sounds deconsecrating and of course it is. We fight against it. The need for recognition does not end with retirement. This is a basic human need. We need to feel recognized from birth to death.
We have all seen young children standing at pools edge waiting for someone to watch them dive in. They stand and cry, "Watch me, watch me". They repeat the process over and over again. We continue this practice throughout life. We crave recognition. When one avenue closes we seek another. We move from swimming to coloring, to running, to reading, to crafts, to arts, to gardening, to science or poetry; a profession. In each instance we demand attention.
If we are lucky we have a spouse or life partner who does give us love and this sense of recognition. Our own children also meet this basic need. The importance of this can not be underestimated. But for any number of reasons this situation is not valid for all: death, divorce, no children, estranged children, etc. A spouse or partner and children are not part of the picture for many.
Even when children are part of our lives they are no longer kids and are busy with their adult lives. They have demands made on their time. They are getting paid for work performed. Their boss recognizes their importance to the job. They have customers or clients that notice their presence and efforts. Then they have kids who recognize them as their providers. They take them to school, feed, clothe, shelter and love them. We older folks have none of these people watching or depending on us.
No one knows if we arise at 6am or 11am. Nor do they care. The same is true about the time we retire in the evening. Our lunch time may vary and we may take a short or long nap. No one cares. We may read a book or watch TV in the middle of the day and again experience no recognition.
People used to work until they died and for the most part live in an extended family structure where some recognition was assured. Today's retired people face a true challenge in this life quest. We must create a means of being recognized. We take pride in the fact our barista knows our name. We smile at the waiter or bartender who knows what we want without being told. We join groups of hikers, bridge players, ballroom dancers or community political groups. We want someone to recognize us. Of course we may also intend to do some good in one way or another but that is co-incidental to our quest for recognition.
We know that we are not the center of the universe. The world does not spin around us. We have not set the world on fire. Days of standing at the edge and yelling,"watch me, watch me" are over.
We can bring ourselves to accept this thought intellectually but it finds little purchase in our mind. We can sit back and relax. We can sleep in or stay up late. But accepting it is against our very nature. As long as blood flows we seem to need the attention of someone. This is when leading "lives of quiet desperation" takes on deeper meaning.
Our reactions vary. Some of us become a fan of - anything or anyone. We cheer on the football team and thus become part of a group. We listen to more jazz or blues than anyone else we know and thus gain a slim claim to fame. We collect spoons or license plates. We love dogs more than anyone on our block. We can become not the center of attention but one of those circling, applauding, cheering, and hoping that some of the recognition rubs off on us.
We learn the lesson taught by Spinoza that the only happiness in life is the journey or movement. We learn to participate in some activity that keeps our body and mind in action. And through the activity we hope to gain some recognition. We hope someone notices our effort and existence.
This is Retirement Talk.
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