Savor Life

Have you ever found yourself at some little restaurant off the beaten path with just the right mix of ambiance and good food?  The service is as it should be – waiters not overly aggressive in monitoring the readiness of your plate to be removed while your glass of water is efficiently maintained at full. The noise level does not require you raise your voice allowing you to engage in meaningful discussion and genuine sharing. The wine selection is intriguing without costing an arm and a leg. And the food – oh the wonderful food! If you are smart you take your time and enjoy the perfect storm of goodness that you find yourself experiencing. Who knows when or if you will ever again luck into such a moment? Make it last, take your time, and savor.

Flashes of perfection can be exquisite whether experienced at a restaurant, in a relationship, while appreciating a breathtaking view or just spending time quietly contemplating your own inner thoughts. Sadly these moments do not come along enough. Their rarity makes them that much more special. Their transient nature makes it even more important to grab hold and enjoy.

The other day I found myself feeling a little wound up, strange considering I am one of the lucky ones enjoying retired life. I don’t remember what triggered the feeling but it sure felt like the “old days” while working when the only speed I knew how to live was faster. Back then everything had a time line and there was no excuse for failure to deliver. But I am retired now. What is the rush? There is more than enough time in the day to complete everything on my plate. If not there is always tomorrow. Why should I feel anxious about anything?

It dawned on me how I choose to live my life and at what pace is ultimately up to me. Rather than hurry, wouldn’t it make more sense to take advantage of my freedom and make the most of each experience? In retirement you needn’t always be on the run. It should be okay to walk.

Taking a seat on the living room couch I tried to think of areas where I might be needlessly hurrying rather than calmly enjoying. I hoped to better pace myself to avoid glossing over or missing entirely special moments that came my way. As I thought it through I came up with a few basic ideas to help keep me on track.

Enjoy each bite. Rather than just shovel in my meal to stoke the fires, I can pay closer attention to what I am eating. Be aware of the complimentary flavors and textures, appreciate the aromas, and take my time. There is no rush – or at least there should not be. A long leisurely meal is a wonderful experience. And no TV. How can you expect to appreciate your repast if you are caught up in the mind numbing advertisement infested “entertainment” that is television?

Disconnect for a while. It sure is handy to have an iPhone to contact my friends in real time as well as stay on top of important current events. But it can get out of hand if you find yourself perpetually poised to click on the first ping or vibration. I am discovering the amazing world all around by giving myself the freedom from distraction that constant connectivity demands. Less connection to electronics more connection to the real people and places that surround us.

Be slow to anger. As the years progress I find myself less tolerant than I once was. Little things, like poor service or products that are not as advertised, tick me off. It can be easy for that anger to rise to the surface to take control of me and upset my peace of mind. I am learning to recognize when I start to get wound up and take a deep breath. Is it worth the angst? I don’t want to waste my moments being unnecessarily angry at things over which I have no real control. God bless you mister slow driver. Have a great day late night calling telemarketer. I wish you the best loud iPhone talker. It’s all good.

Take time to reach out to friends and family. I now control my free time. I manage my calendar according to what I want to do. I have the luxury of engaging in long conversations instead of just quick catch up calls shoved into limited time slots in an overly committed day. I am able to pay closer attention to and dig deeper into important topics affecting those I care about. It is amazing how an unexpected call from a friend can brighten you day whether you are the caller or the callee.

Keep on dancing. One of my regular readers loves dancing and typically ends her notes with this phrase. Nothing more you really need to say. Thanks Carol!

Relax in front of a warm fire. The flicker and warmth of a fireplace always gives me a feeling of security and peace. Time stands still as you gaze into the ever changing glow of flickering flames. For that moment all is well with the world. On a cold night there is nothing better than snuggling up in front of the old fireplace with a good book and a warm body next to you.

Go for a walk. My wife and I love to explore the hidden hiking paths that are scattered throughout our area. You never know when you will turn a corner and suddenly find yourself in the presence of unexpected beauty. A crystal clear stream babbling beyond a crumbling bank or an ancient resident tree standing proudly draped with pale green moss almost touching the ground. The peace and quiet refreshes while encouraging a slower often introspective pace at which to proceed.

Life happens fast. We cannot always dictate the pace at which we are forced to live. But sometimes we can take control, step back and appreciate our many blessings. The good moments may be few and far between. But when they come around let the savoring begin!

Handling the Ups and Downs of Retirement Living

The day is under way as I gaze through the kitchen window at a darkening sky while enjoying my freshly brewed Cappuccino. Rumor has it we may actually be in for some rain – woo hoo! In our drought stricken California any and all precipitation is welcome. We are in year five and more than ready for a change. As we await the promise of El Nino (or threat depending on where you live), chances are in the next few weeks we will go from no rain at all to pounding downpours. In preparation locals anxiously fill sand bags from huge piles of sand located in front of fire stations and empty lots. We will see how it all shakes out as we deal with the on again off again whims of Mother Nature.

Logging to Yahoo Finance I discover the stock market is down 450 points at this early point in the day, the biggest drop for the first day of a new year since the exchange began back in 1932. Things have been a bit unstable over the past year but I doubt anyone expected such a dramatic welcome to 2016. Still I would not be surprised to find things balancing out a bit by the end of the day. The financial market is schizophrenic to say the least. What goes down must eventually come up we hope.

Like so many facets of life, living in retirement can have its ups and downs. One day finds you excited to jump out of bed and tackle the world head on. You feel energized and optimistic and plain lucky to be alive. The next day may find you in a totally different state of mind. Perhaps cold weather makes it undesirable to exit warm covers. Maybe there is nothing you have to do and so you just stay in bed. And sometimes you just feel you cannot deal with what the day portends and choose to remain where it is safe.

Retirement can be a wonderful time to explore new interests, a time to figure out what really matters to you deep down and pursue it. You are no longer restricted by the demands of the working world. You alone manage your calendar and what it contains. You choose the people you hang out with. What a perfect time to get to know your creative side. What an opportunity to step outside the comfort zone you have lived within all your life, a chance to try new things and face new challenges.

On flip side in retirement you assume responsibility for entertaining yourself and finding personal fulfillment. It is all up to you. When I first retired I missed having goals to strive for. I was used to spending my day focused on doing whatever it took to get me to my end of the month targets. Now retired, no one was telling me what I needed to achieve. It was a bit disconcerting and for a time I felt lost.

Before long I realized if I valued having goals to pursue it was up to me to set them. I started by setting a series of weekly fitness goals, nothing too extreme but something to work toward. Ride the stationary bike two times a week, life weights two times a week, and do yoga two times a week. My wife and I do not typically make resolutions for the New Year – we try to keep it together throughout the year. But this year we added a goal to walk 20 miles per week. It is a great way to explore the neighborhood, enjoy the Pacific Coast hikes and spend time together doing something we both love. I have other goals in the areas of learning new piano pieces, practicing French, and figuring out what vegetables will grow best in our soon-to-be new garden.

As long as you are physically and financially able, the early years of retirement can be enjoyed to the maximum. You are healthy, you have time, and you are excited to explore the new freedom from work. It is time to travel, play, explore and enjoy. As you venture further in to your retirement aging becomes your constant companion. It can be a bit more challenging to do those little things you previously took for granted. Your tolerance can begin to diminish impacting plans to travel or venture outside of what you are comfortable with. Some things you used to love just require too much effort. If you let it overwhelm, you might find yourself withdrawing from life.

Fortunately we do not have to look too hard to find inspirational examples of older folks still living a full and meaningful life. My folks have slowed down but are still social animals getting out regularly throughout the week to play bridge and dine with friends. My aunt still travels the world walking miles of local streets to become immersed in local sites and tastes. Our Swiss family has a commitment to outdoor life that keeps them hiking mountains into their eighties. It can be done. I think the trick is to realize nothing is perfect and try to accept limitations rather than be controlled by them.

Retirement will have its ups and downs, that is a given. How we choose to cope is up to us. None of us had an easy time getting all the way to retirement. We learned to fight and scrape and not take no for an answer. A little of that spunk – or vim and vigor as my mom says – can help us over the rough spots as we navigate our retirement. It’s that old positive attitude coming to our rescue if we encourage it, if we let it, and if we incorporate it in each day.

Happy New Year!