Do Something Now

About five years ago I found myself between jobs not too uncommon in the world of technology. For the first six months I focused all my time and effort on getting that next gig. I poured over job sites multiple times a day, sent resumes liberally to prospective employers, interviewed at a dozen companies, and networked until I was blue in the face. Unfortunately when that initial six months came to an end I was still unemployed.

I needed to find a job but was beginning to realize there was only so much time and effort you can put into the search. At some point you become burned out and disillusioned. If I were to interview in such a state of mind chances are I would not present the best of candidates. If I could not – and probably should not – dedicate every minute to finding my next job, could I spend time elsewhere in some meaningful pursuit? Since I was job free for the moment could I somehow improve myself and my situation?

I have always been intrigued by the idea of running my own internet business. So I figured why not try my hand at building a website? I could totally see myself working remotely from whatever location (preferably near the beach listening to the waves break along the shore) and loved the thought of being my own boss. So I came up with the idea of UniqueArtists.com, a portal to a collection of non-mainstream artists who did things a little differently. I diligently researched how to do it, put together my first ever website and signed up twenty or so artists who would pay me a small fee should a buyer find his or her way to them via my site. In the end I did not make much money but I learned a lot. I felt good knowing I took a shot at something outside my comfort zone, something which I had no prior knowledge or expertise. And I did not just think about doing it, I did it.

In retirement each of us is blessed with a good amount of time to spend doing what we choose. That freedom of choice can be incredibly empowering should we explore passions we may have kept on the back burner. But it can be a bit unnerving as well. With so much free time what if we run out of things to do? What if rather than boldly taking advantage of our new freedom we find ourselves sitting along the sidelines watching life pass us by?

I believe if you want to make the most of your retirement days you have to take the initiative. No one is going to hold your hand or tell you what you should do. It is up to each of us to decide to do something sooner rather than later.

I have always been a voracious reader which likely contributed to my interest in writing. Since I was a kid I often imagined myself writing a book. The biggest challenge was what to write about. But that wasn’t all. Just as important as choosing my subject was making the mental commitment to get going, to start writing something. One day I decided now is the time. I had tested the waters by blogging about retirement and figured why not expand upon that theme. Bottom line I dedicated four hours each day to writing my book and about six months later I self-published my first work. It might not be a best seller but the feeling of accomplishment it gave me was well worth the effort. And it took care of Christmas gifts for that year!

We have some friends who love talking about travel. They are well versed in the must-see attractions of various countries, have watched all the Rick Steve’s segments, and know the local history better than most teachers. But they don’t go anywhere. They are virtual travelers. Imagine the stories they could tell if they ventured beyond the safety of their home and immersed themselves in the world they only know from TV? In the end it is up to them to take the initiative, to do something now.

Now that we are retired my wife and I often talk about volunteering. There are many worthy causes to choose from and our area is big on getting involved. Somehow it has been six months since we moved and I have been unwilling to take that first step. Thankfully my wife jumped in and signed up for a few coming events. She will be the first of us to test the waters. If the reviews are good I will be my turn.

Getting started and engaged need not be a major undertaking. It is okay to take baby steps. I like to think about hobbies and interests I have had at various times in my life. Some were left behind because I outgrew them. But others had to be delayed because of commitments along the way. Now that many of those commitments are no more why delay any longer? Pick up that old guitar, finish knitting that baby blanket you started but tucked away in a drawer, learn Italian so you can converse with the relatives, paint the local scenery you know so well, cook that elaborate dish, or plan that long awaited trip. There is no better time than now to go for it. What’s on your list?

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!