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. So...is 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.