Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Retirement benefits

Doing my park docent thing at Calaveras Big Trees Park

Camp Connell, CA -- "All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts..."

I don't know if Shakespeare had it right about there being seven stages of man, or woman, but he certainly nailed it on the head when he wrote that there are stages of life we go through.

I've been in the retirement stage of life for more than five years, and life could not be more different than when I worked every day for a living. I still do what I call work, but it is a whole different thing.
I am not ready to vacate the stage, incidentally, but I am enjoying this penultimate act I am experiencing.

The benefits of retirement are many, and not listed in order of importance:
-- I can stay up late, whether in productive pursuits or playing computer games, and it doesn't bother anyone. That's a luxury, and a source of pleasure.
-- I don't attend meetings unless I want to, and -- no surprise -- usually, I don't want to. My life for decades seemed driven by an endless series of meetings, most of which accomplished very little and left me irritated and falling behind in my real work. Now I attend if I can learn something, or offer something.
-- I learn something new almost every day, and that is a source of joy. It may be a lesson in wilderness survival in the winter, the wisdom of a grandchild, or the Latin name of my favorite tree. Or it may be, thanks to the New York Times' continued availability online, some lengthy article about an obscure subject I find interesting.
-- I actually share my days and nights with my wife. We really like each other and enjoy being together, so much so that once in a while we can comfortably enjoy individual pursuits and quiet times without feeling cheated. We have time to be together. And knowing and enjoying my children as adults enriches my days.
-- I am free to attend my grandchildren's events, such as school sports and scout ceremonies, and I don't have to go if I don't want to. They are loving children and are glad to see me, and secure enough not to worry about it if I don't show up. That takes the pressure off. I always enjoy their company.
-- I work with my hands and stay outdoors a lot more than I did before retirement. I chop and stack wood endlessly (we go through five-to-six cords a year here in the snowy seasons). I shovel snow. I make our home fire-safe. I helped rebuild kitchen countertops, erected a snow shed, varnished and unvarnished our sailboat, and am currently painting our home, something I hadn't done in 30 years. These are rewarding activities, and injure to no person.
-- I get more exercise, because I want to, not because someone makes me do it. I hike, ski, and sail. I have given up tennis (no partners) and golf(I am too lousy) and rarely watch sports on television, but don't miss any of it. Except, maybe the tennis, which was really a gathering of friends.
-- I read more, lots more, than when I worked for a living. And I read what I want, which includes fun stuff as well as serious stuff, books as well as the Internet. I don't read much about journalism or the newspaper business. Too depressing.
-- I volunteer my time for things I want to do, such as leading nature hikes in the state park or helping visitors in Yosemite. Both include elements of teaching, which is fun and a great way to learn new things. I can help with music at church or in the community, which is probably sinful because it is too much fun.
-- And I am very slowly working on a legacy for my children and grandchildren, which is a family history project. I want them to know where they came from, and the history and influences that shaped us all. I'm a little behind schedule on that.

Oiling the teak on the deck of S/V Good News

This stage of retirement also includes some things I am not too wild about, but that list is shorter than the advantages:
-- I spend to much time going to and from various doctors, and I'm not even sick!
-- I worry too much about the distant future, more for my children and grandchildren than for myself;
-- I've become more cynical about politicians, the present President excluded, which is a shame. I just don't trust most of them to do the right thing;
-- I no longer have faith that this country, or even this planet, will survive. I'll reduce my impact, but I'm not sure it will help.
Skiing into the big trees on a nice winter day

Enough negativity.
In summary: retirement is great.
I miss the occasional expense account dinner. But generally, I'd rather have a peanut butter, banana and mayonaise sandwich at home anyway.
With Pat, Ruth, Delaney and Connor in Yosemite National Park

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