Taking an occasional sabbatical cruise through the North Sound on my trusty
Aimless is always enlightening. I never have an agenda, save to get out there
and take my place with the rest of the natural world for a bit. It’s always
good, always different, always refreshing. The real world, I said “the real
world” – is still as amazing and inspiring as it has ever been. One never
knows how the water, wind and waves will affect one’s state of mind. This
time, I find myself somewhat amused, sitting here knowing I can stay out
here as long as I care to… that I’m retired now, that I have no deadlines
to meet, think about or stress about. I’m temporarily locked in this
delicious realization that my retirement, and the Sound have, for the
moment, rendered me totally free! Free from anything! It’s heady stuff, gang!
That said,this retirement thing is maybe a touch more complicated than I
originally thought it would be. I told friends (and anyone else who would listen)
“Hey, the secret is to have a hobby or two, do the things you’ve always
dreamed of doing… travel, visit friends, work on your bucket list. How hard
can it be?”
Well, harder than I thought. I didn’t take into account the fact that when we
finally get to retire, we’re older, and can’t always do the things we wanted
to when we were younger. Oh, we can still try to do them, but in time they
get more difficult than fun. And, very often, impossible. My snowmobiling days come to mind… how I miss them!
Getting Some Air
Now some of our easier dreams can still be realized, and that’s a good
thing. But the older we get, the less inclined we are to travel and be
adventurous. Like I said, it gets difficult, and finally, not worth the effort.
What happens then is a dichotomy… that of being more interested and
knowledgeable about life in this world, and less able to explore it or do
anything about it. Aarrgghh!
And so we begin to stay closer to home, read more, listen to more music,
watch more movies, take more walks and do yard work. Guess I first
realized this fate recently when I knew that my big challenge for the
next day was to mow the lawn. I swear to god, I nearly went to the
cabinet for a double shot of Jameson’s, just to chase that thought away!
See, our mind is a very strange vessel… sometimes a creative pallet
providing us with a wonderland of dreams, memories, ideas and
possibilities. Yes, and sometimes a nightmare in which we are shackled
and tortured by what might have been, but can never be. I don’t like that
part of it, naturally… few of us do. But to deny it is to give it an insidious
power over us it doesn’t deserve. So we acknowledge our dark side
and try to live in our bright side as much as possible.
After talking with friends over the years, I realize my dark side is a kind of
Pollyanna dance under a slightly cloudy sky. My demons have actually
been laughed at by acquaintances who deal with real demons. I get it.
My frustrations with not being able to run like I used to, not having enormous
amounts of energy like I used to, to be instantly ready to get up and go
like I used to… these realizations are agitating. And they raise their
ugly little heads nearly every day. But those frustrations don’t even begin
to touch the depth of fear, pain and despair a few of my pals deal with
I think often about what Paul Simon said, when interviewed by Brian
Williams about turning 70. “To tell you the truth, Brian, it really pisses me off!”
And rightly so, Paul. We’ve known forever that our minds (for the most part)
seem to remain young and fertile while our bodies slowly crumble beneath us.
Of course it doesn’t seem fair… don’t we still feel young at heart, like
we were still in our 20’s or mid-30’s?? Sure we do. But in my case, at least,
it’s not true.
I know people who have become badly jaded over the years, and I
understand why. Life isn’t easy. And even in the rare cases when it is, we find
a way to wish it could become even easier. We’re shameless gluttons when it
comes to our personal pursuit of perfection. If it can be attained, by god, then
let’s go for it! It’s always right about then that I remember there are so many
people in this world who would like to have the food I eat, have their sight or
hearing, all their fingers, no terminal illness… and would have nothing more
to fight and survive for than to have a nice brunch and then mow the lawn…
I’m sure countless generations of people have known that life just seems to
fly by, regardless of how much we try to pack into it. I remember thinking “if
I live every day as if it were my last, then maybe it would seem longer…”
At the time, it did seem longer. So perhaps it worked, to a degree. But, as a
74-year-old person, I’m here to tell you that it still seems like it zipped by
in a whisker! And I nearly killed myself several times trying to live every day
as if it might be my last. So I can’t recommend that tack for everyone.
What I can recommend, when you finally get old, is sitting by a crackling fire
in the evening with your favorite beverage, and letting your memories fly.
They will transport you back to the days when you actually did all the
things you can only dream about now. For me, a little Jamison’s, good music
and maybe a picture or two is, occasionally, almost as good as still being
able to wade through that deep part of the river and fish that sweet spot
that flatlanders fear to tread. The trick is to appreciate still being here after
all those adventures, and to be grateful for getting to visit them again,
through our memories, one more time.