March 1, 2012

Asking Some Important Questions

Just about a year ago Tess Marshall, author of the very popular blog, The Bold Life, ran a list of 50 questions about personal growth. Did you see it? I printed that post and have had it on my desk for the last 12 months. Occasionally I will look at a question or two and think about where I stand. After a year, it finally occurred to me that you might find some value in the questions, too. So, thank you to Tess for a handful of her thought-provokers, along with my self-confessional answers:

1) Have you been spontaneous in the last five days? 

Part of the joy of a satisfying retirement is the ability to not be locked into a schedule as rigid as the one you probably maintained during your working years. Sure, you have obligations and commitments, sometimes too many. You'll find many posts here about the importance of time management. Lots of comments from readers tell stories of finding themselves busier than ever and wondering how to fit in everything. I certainly struggle with that problem.

So, the answer to Tess's question is: not nearly enough. I use Google's calendar function to the extreme. Between it and an extensive to-do list there is little in my life that isn't planned ahead of time. My family jokes that I have my weekend chore list done 6 months in advance. No, I don't. It only goes into late April. So there.

But, spontaneity and I are distant cousins. Sure, every once in awhile I'll suggest dinner out instead of what is on the menu for that night. Or, maybe I'll throw caution to the wind and decide to have a picnic lunch on a warm afternoon. But, a truly spontaneous act, like deciding on an overnight trip, throwing a change of clothes in a suitcase and jumping in the car 30 minutes later doesn't happen. I'm just too regimented. I would like to change but I don't know how. Do you have any suggestions? 

2) Have you spent quality time with a loved one in the past 48 hours?

At the time I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, the answer is yes. My dad's 88th birthday was yesterday. Betty, one of my daughters, and I joined him for dinner at a nicer restaurant. We presented him with a picture, taken 70 years ago, of my dad, his dad, and one of his brothers after a hunting trip. That triggered all sorts of stories of his life during the depression, all the jobs he held to help support the family, and the various sporting teams he was part of during high school. 

Importantly, his dad died of a heart attack not long after that picture was taken. We think it may be the last one of my dad and his father together in a photo. That made the birthday present and our chat at dinner that much more meaningful. With mom being gone for over a year, dad depends on us to be the people he can love and hug. That time with him was important for us all.

3) Have you disconnected from all electronics for at least 24 hours in the last month?

No. As a post a few days ago related, my Twitter account was hacked into and used to send spam to thousands of unsuspecting folks. To force the evil person to go elsewhere I shut my account down for a few days. But, I was still tightly leashed to all my other electronic outlets. Between three computers, a smart phone, and now a Kindle Fire, I can't wander far. Add in my habit of watching Netflix most nights, and  electronics have a real hold. 

Could I go 24 hours without any of these tools and toys? Seriously, I don't know. Then I guess the question is, does it matter? What would be better if I took a 24 hour sabbatical? I'd be willing to give it a try if I saw a positive benefit. this electronic linkup bad? Should I disconnect for a day? Why? Tell me.

4) Have you read a book from cover to cover within the last 2 weeks?

Actually, two books finished within the last 14 days, and several more in various stages of completion. I find mysteries and thrillers relaxing so there is always at least one on the nightstand. I am reading two books about being a better chess player. I have a few books for our church small group and men's Bible study that are needed for weekly meetings. 

As I wrote last July in Super-Charge Your Brain, I try to read one book a week and have several others underway. I truly believe it helps my life, I know it helps this blog, and it keeps me plugged into the world in a way that the Internet and social media can't.

5) Have you spent some time in nature this  last week?

This is the time of year when living in the Phoenix area is a true blessing. So, the answer is, absolutely. Picnics, walks around neighborhood parks, hiking through parts of the mountain preserves, and enjoying places like the Desert Botanical Garden and Scottsdale's Railroad Park keep me and my wife in touch with nature. Sitting on the Ramada and reading, having lunch in the backyard, and keeping the bird feeders full allow us to enjoy fresh air and natural stimulation. All too soon the temperatures will make most of these activities unpleasant so we make an extra effort to be outside now.

6) Have you looked into someone's eyes and said, "I love you" in the last seven days?

Yes..actually several times every day. That is one of the real benefits of satisfying retirement and a happy marriage. 

Again, thanks to Tess for the questions that prompted these thoughts. Since her post included 50 questions total, I may tap into her post again at some point.


  1. By the time you answered all 50 questions, you would have experienced Jack's beanstalk personal growth! Great questions.

    I've taken a different approach to spontaneity. Like you, I am unlikely to grab my passport and head to the airport, but perhaps I am more likely than you are to have some room in my schedule for doing whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. I'm enjoying that freedom, even knowing it's at the expense of getting some things done on my list of things I want to do. A tough balance.

    One other difference is that when I go up to the cabin, I am unplugged for whatever time I'm up there--no internet or phone. In town, that never happens. I try an internet moratorium for half days Sunday mornings. I make it about half the time.

    You asked whether readers think you should disconnect. I think if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Great questions. You could get a lot of posts out of that list! I hope you do some more.

    1. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That'll work for me and disconnecting. I'm having too much fun and satisfaction from the blogging and writing to want to disconnect, at least at the moment.

      Interestingly, I have seen notices that two active bloggers I follow have given up the ghost in the last few days. One has displayed increasing signs of anger and rage over the last few months and just needed to make a change. The other blogger has been handling three blogs. She and her husband decided they needed more time with each other and less time on separate computers. So, it is possible to burn out on this after a time. But, so far I'm not even close to that stage.

      I DO want more spontaneity, but am not willing to give up what I am doing at the moment. I'll let you know how that works out.

    2. Glad you're going strong and loving it! You seem to be doing well pacing yourself.

      About two years ago, I was reading and commenting regularly on a blog that was maintained by a guy that was edging toward what I thought was a very sad end. His last post was a stark graphic of a skull and crossbones. There was no change in the post for several months -- finally gave up going there. Very sad to see a blogger burn out and crash like that


  2. Great post! All of them ate wonderful!

    1. As I noted, I've kept the list from Tess on my desk for a year. Questions like these are important to ask on a regular basis. I'll pull a few more for a future post.

  3. Hmmm, I guess you could schedule being spontaneous! LOL. Seriously, stopping and thinking out of the box can be helpful. Have you tried some mind-mapping exercises, set a goal of trying new things in some specific category, or stopped and decided to do something you just thought of or read about? Can be a useful stretch for oneself.

    1. Don't joke-I actually put on the calendar things like "go to bookstore to look at magazines from unusual subjects."

      Trying new things in a specific category - I like that. Let me give that a whirl.

    2. Laughed out loud about the bookstore item on your calendar. That is really funny! I think your next post should be a glimpse of your daily calendar! I'll add a variation on the ain't broke don't fix concept. If it doesn't drive your wife crazy, don't fix it. Ha! Enjoy your schedule today!

    3. I'd have replied sooner but on-the-spur-of-the-moment I was out washing the car - something that had been on my calendar for almost 2 weeks.

  4. Love this! disclaimer I am not retired YET but.... how about designating a "day to be spontenous"? ? like weds is hump day (in the work world)so each weds for say a month get up and depending on how you feel,the weather and your financial situation off you go.Ideas like trying new place for breakfast then taking a drive to an area(maybe 50-100 mile radius) you have not been to.Explore be prepared to stop and pick up stones/rocks,wild flowers cut to take home or if per chance a small unusual store either a gift for say Christmas or a local specialty like grape jam for cooking or enjoying.My point is some of our favorite memoirs have come from a day when we did not rush to do anything.My husband and I turn ordinary into extrodinary.One time in Florida we drove from Orlando to Vero Beach, took our time going down A1A along the coast stopping anytime we saw something interesting like a sandy beach we always wonder if it was good? finally landing at my parents condo to just check on things.We sat on the beach wandered down to a small snack shop in a public park close by to use bathrooms get a cold drink met an amazing woman(local who lives there year round)chatted had an amazing time and could have joined her for dinner at a golf country club!I should have accepted instead of being too concern with not having the right attire on.We drove home after swimming in the ocean, dining outside for cheap and having a blast.All because we offered to check on the condo or take a drive.It could be as simple as having friends go somewhere you have always wanted to go aka corning glass to see glass blowers do their thing.It could be hot cocoa/coffee when you go walking a neighborhood with cool houses and people do wonderful gardens pst pst get ideas.Comb thru a book store with old books,antique stores in small towns,farms that are willing to give tours(maybe offer to help) we just did this at one farm who turns goat milk into cheve and cheeses yummm and one that is doing maple syrup OH MY loved this! we cut and stacked wood for the boiler cooking the syrup,we played with 2 golden retrievers I am in love with-free pet therapy,walked thru the woods collecting buckets so we got our work out.Never a dull moment and we squeeze this is working full time plus.You get the idea.

    1. Wow...enough here to set my mind wandering. I think your idea of picking a day (probably for us every 2 weeks) to just do something different or pleasurable is a good idea. Let me follow up and that and see how it works. If nothing else, there may be a good post idea or two!

      By the way, I have been to the Corning Glass Works in Corning, NY and watched the glass blowers and taken a tour of the factory. It is amazing.

    2. I work in Corning twice a year and have had time to go to the glass museum only once. But it is amazing and way more than can be absorbed in one visit. I had no idea they had pre-historic glass there as the starting point in the history of glass.

    3. Off subject,but...Juhli, I checked out your blog and really like the decluttering progress report...a monthly tally of what you have done to simplify and thin out. Writing it down and making it public probably helps when you'd rather just let it be!

  5. Let's see. On your list I came up with 2 -yes and 4-no. I won't tell you which ones though. Maybe I need to think about this some more?? I guess I am just not into personal growth right now?? ;-)

  6. That is a .330 average, If you were a baseball player, you'd be a star. I read your blog. I'm pretty sure you push the growth edges quite a bit.

  7. Always enjoy reading your blog, Bob.

    While we were in Ecuador the wi-fi was a 5-minute walk. There were a couple of days during the three weeks when I was untethered. I finished reading five books!

    1. 5 that's a great vacation. Of course, with no WiFi or TV (at least with English programming) you had to revert to "old style" entertainment. Sounds heavenly.


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