According to my dad when the first of the year rolls around it is time to get outside and prune the rose bushes. If you saw the impressive array of wildly blooming plants displayed around his garden you would agree he knows what he is talking about. And so with elbow length leather gloves protecting my exposed arms and sharpened shears in hand I head to the garden to go about my yearly duties. Since I have to get down on hands and knees to do it right I have added a Styrofoam knee pad to the necessary accoutrement, something I would have never considered years back.
We have a collection of 22 rose bushes in need of pruning. The Dave of old would have put his head down and relentlessly powered through the whole bunch, taking brief pause for a glass of water or to wipe away drops of sweat from a dripping brow. The pace would have been anything but relaxing and by the time I completed the task I would be pooped. Back then I had the stamina to get through demanding chores along with an ever motivating dose of impatience. I pushed myself wanting to get it done to move on to my next activity. How could I enjoy the football game until my responsibilities were met?
These days I view things differently. First off I accept it may take me a bit longer and require more effort to complete those activities I used to effortlessly plow through. And that is okay. The hard part has been accepting the fact I am slowing down, gradual though it may be. Secondly I am realizing there is no rush. What’s the big hurry? I have time. I can set my own pace, one that fits my current energy level. Why do I have to get all 22 roses pruned in a single day?
And so this year I started out slowly, taking a breather when I felt like it and enjoying the beautiful day around me. I patiently worked through the first ten plants, carefully trimming away dead wood while shaping the bush so branches grew outward and did not cross one another in the middle. When I got to bush number ten, I called it quits. I cleaned up and headed inside feeling quite accomplished with the morning. I did not dwell upon the remaining twelve plants to be pruned (well maybe a little). The next day I got up, had breakfast, slowly savored a cup of coffee and eventually meandered outside. I gathered my tools and proceeded to prune the remaining roses. I don’t know how long it took – I’m not on the clock. Once completed, I pulled up a chair to admire my handiwork. I am beginning to understand the virtue of patience.
One of the reasons my wife and I selected Carmel Valley to retire is the easy access to hiking paths scattered throughout local mountains and along the Pacific coastline. We aim to tally at least 20 miles each week and generally have no problem achieving that goal. I do face one small challenge. When our path leads upward – as in a hill – my wife goes into what I call “passing gear”. I swear she walks uphill faster than she walks on level ground. I often find myself doing all I can just to keep up as she streaks toward the summit. But I am learning. It is not critical that I match her energetic pace upward. I can slow a bit and find a rate that I am more comfortable with. She may get to the top first but at least now I am able to enjoy the journey there as well. And the paths we walk take us through some incredibly beautiful countryside. Why not enjoy?
When we moved away from the Bay Area one thing we happily left behind was the horrendous traffic. After 30 years of commuting you would think one would become used to the perpetual state of congestion but that was not the case. So many times during my career I found myself mired in rush hour traffic. It did not even have to be rush hour. My frustration and stress levels soared as I watched time tick by knowing I was late for my next appointment. And there was nothing I could do about it. Rushing from meeting to traffic jam to the next meeting was taxing on my sanity. Now in retirement traffic does not matter. We are able to plan our trips to avoid busy times. Weekdays have become our new weekends. And if we do run into a little slowdown it is all good. There is typically nowhere we absolutely have to be at a specific time. We have learned to turn up the music and appreciate the fact that slow traffic is now the exception rather than the rule.
In my retirement I am learning there are ways to adjust the pace of life to an enjoyable level. Rather than hurry off in the next direction as I used to I try to keep things in perspective. If it doesn’t get done today, what is the worry? Instead of missing the world around me as it rockets by in a blur I am able to appreciate the moment and savor each experience. They say retirement is about the journey rather than the destination. I hope to enjoy all I can at a pace that takes me far from the hurrying world.