October 23, 2010

Go Fly a Kite

We can remember when we were much younger. We were free to play and experiment. We were free to dream big dreams and see anything as possible. We had friends and parties and presents and good times.

Now we are all grown up. We have responsibilities. We are settled down and settled in. Our dreams of being a rock star, a fireman, or the president of a Fortune 500 company have either been achieved by now or are distant memories. We don't think much about playing or experimenting anymore.

Why not?  Who says we can't recreate some of the absolute joy and exhilaration of youth, when everything was possible and limits were not self-imposed. Part of the challenge of the retirement period of your life is to not let society limit your options with thoughts like:

  • "What you want to do is not age appropriate."
  • "What you'd like to try is for younger folks."
  • "Don't be silly, people your age don't do that anymore."
  • "I can't do that, I'm too old."
I give you permission to reject every one of those statements. Each one is based on a cultural stereotype that is not relevant. Fifty years ago retirement meant a rocking chair in Sun City. Today retirement means sky diving, fly fishing in Montana, starting a new business, traveling the world, taking up tennis, learning how to paint...whatever you want to try.

Here is a list of some of the fun stuff many of us did as carefree youngsters. Do you have the spark in you to say, "Yes. I liked it them, and I'm going to do it now!"

Fly a kite.  Fresh air, the wind at your back. Sunshine, laughter and excitement as the kite lifts off the ground to kiss the sky. Get a child or grandchild to run with the kite if you can't. But, if you can do it, run and laugh out loud as that beautiful hunk of cloth and plastic defies gravity.

Have a Picnic.  Any food tasted better outside, even Mom's Bologna sandwiches. Grab a blanket, a few sandwiches, some chips, an apple, a bottle of water, maybe some cookies. Find a park nearby, your backyard, your front yard, your balcony...it doesn't matter. You are on a picnic and the world slows down just for you.

Cook hot dogs and s'mores over the fireplace in the living room. As a youngster did your parents ever grab a few long sticks, plunk themselves down in front of the fireplace, and cook hot dogs over a fire in the fireplace? Did you end the meal with s'mores? What is stopping you from doing that again? Grab a few sticks, some dogs, and spend a glorious hour heating and eating them in front of the fireplace. No fireplace?  Is it too cold to do the same thing around a grill outside? Bundle up, share memories, and have the best meal of the week.

Camp out in the backyard Remember a  blanket thrown over a clothes line or a real tent complete with a flashlight and a few sleeping bags? The big adventure in the backyard, all those scary sounds, and the fear of an animal sniffing around your "campsite," even in the midst of suburbia. So, do it again. The backyard is still a bit scary after dark when sounds and the wind make going to sleep an adventure all over again.

Play hooky. I must admit that as a child I was too much of a straight arrow to do this. I have been accused of being born 40 years old and that may be true. But, now that I am retired, there are times when I can skip out on a meeting, or job, or something on my to-do list and feel a great sense of freedom and extra time.

This one can get a little tricky. If your absence causes another person a problem, then don't do it. But, if you are free to skip a chore scheduled for today, delay the garden pruning, or not attend a meeting you don't really enjoy anyway, go for it. You suddenly feel as if you have gained an extra hour or two for yourself. There is a feeling of liberation, even if you are skipping your own task.

Have a Birthday Party. In all likelihood you liked birthday parties when you were young. The excitement of tearing off the paper from presents, eating cake and ice cream in the middle of the day, and having friends all paying attention to you was hard to beat. Now, as adults , most of us dislike celebrating our own birthday. We'd rather the day was ignored.

Isn't that a shame?  Isn't it still nice when you are the center of attention for a while? What is wrong with having presents to open, special food to eat, and memories to share? Instead of celebrating being another year older, make the party a celebration of good friends and food. The birthday is just an excuse.

Visit Lover's Lane No reason for a lot of details for this subject. But, how long has it been since you and your significant other went "parking?" You don't have to do anything more than sit quietly, hold hands, and stare out the car window at the scenery. Of course, if that is a bit too tame for you, then go for.... whatever. The goal is to bring back, for just a little while, that fabulous time when love was new and you were terrified.

This post was written with me in mind. Out of the seven things listed I do two of them. As I wrote this I caught myself asking if I believed what I was saying enough to put it into practice. My wife will be the first to tell you I need to be more spontaneous. I could use a helping of the childhood stuff that I skipped the first time around. Well, here is a public pledge to do at least two more things on this list before the year is up.

Just as I was wrapping up this article I ran across a post that fits perfectly: Tonight we had dinner in the shower. They really did. Read it and marvel at the simple joy such an unusual event generated.

How about you? Anything on this list you want to try again? Anything else you want to do...run barefoot in the grass, smear finger-paints all over the big piece of paper, lay on the grass and look at the stars? Then, what's stopping you? Want to leave a comment and commit yourself to be a kid again, if only for a little while?


  1. Isn't that why we love to play with the grandchildren so much? They don't know that we aren't supposed to do that. I can remember my very stern, lawyer, East coast suit and tie Grandfather - becoming Granddaddy and plying hide and seek in the formal gardens:<)

  2. We may have had the same Grandfather. Mine was in a sports coat and tie for every dinner and was always very proper. until our summer vacations together. Then, it was jeans, a flannel shirt, and cutting paths with us kids through the woods.

    Thinking like a kid can be a great antidote to being a full time adult.

  3. Hi Bob,

    This is an imaginative list, one of the best I've seen. I really like it. Camping out in the backyard and playing hooky caught my attention and lover's lane also sounds like fun. I appreciate your authenticity. My husband has been into a spontaneous flow of late so he's leading the way for me!

  4. Hi, Sandra,

    The first thing my wife noticed on the list was "Lover's Lane." That started my day off well (along with your fabulous post about clouds!).

    She also wanted to know which two things on the list I am going to do in the near future. I guess I'll have to ask your husband for spontaneity lessons!

  5. Although I frequently fail, my goal is to do at least one "fun thing" per month. Of late, it's might be taking a hike or going for a bike ride just for the heck of it!

  6. Good plan, Steve. You live in a part of the country that just calls out to be explored. Maybe your goal in 2011 could be two fun things a month!

    Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  7. You remind me that at one time I was a wild and crazy guy! And some of that is still in me. Time to break loose and get a little silly. Maybe not dinner in the shower, but who knows...

  8. Yeah, the dinner in the shower idea doesn't work for me either. But, for that family they will have a memory that will last forever.

    You could wear the Steve Martin arrow through the head next time you got to a Sharks game. That would certainly be wild and crazy!