June 26, 2011

Taking the Time

My schedule is not as busy as it was when I was running my radio consulting business. I no longer travel half of each month. I don't have to worry about making payroll, government forms, marketing, or keeping clients happy.

But, retirement is not a walk in the park. And, that is part of my problem. It should be. Literally.  I live about 1/2 mile from a very nice park complete with sports fields, picnic tables, and a large play area for kids. A full walking circuit from my house, around the park and back is exactly 2 miles. Without pushing it that is about 35 minutes. There is no earthly reason why my wife and I shouldn't walk around the park, or have a picnic dinner, or simply sit and watch the kids at play on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is rare event in our lives.

I have written before about our backyard. Lots of planting, a fountain, a Ramada, a shaded porch, an eating area....sounds even better to me as I describe it. What a perfect place for starting the day with breakfast and a book, for lunch, or simply relaxing at the end of the day. Again, like the nearby park, this oasis is underused.

There is one part of my office that holds the equipment for my hobby, ham radio. There are eight different radios and various amplifier or power supplies, microphones, and enough wires and cables to open a Radio Shack. The roof  has several different antennas sticking up above the roof so I can hear and transmit to places all around the world. Amazingly, last week was the first time in almost a year that I actually used a few of the radios to make contact with fellow radio operators in Minnesota and Washington state. Thousands of dollars of equipment have been gathering dust for 11 months.

So, what's the problem?  I certainly have the time. While my schedule is pretty full with blogging, volunteer work, exercising at the gym, meetings at church, and the normal work required to maintain a house and family, it is rather flexible. I can fit in something that is interesting or enjoyable if I so choose.

The problem is I don't take the time. I think of something interesting or pleasant to do, but let excuses at the last minute derail the idea. I keep putting it off until the moment is gone.

Phoenix Art Museum outdoor cafe
A few weeks ago this flaw in my satisfying retirement lifestyle became evident, even to me. An interesting art movie was showing on a Sunday afternoon at the Phoenix Art Museum. The movie was free, so my budget was happy. Show time was several hours after church so we could go without a problem. At the last moment, Betty and I decided to leave early so we could enjoy lunch at the museum's restaurant. It was a lovely, breezy day...perfect for having a spur-of-the-moment meal on the outside patio before the movie began. Lunch, a walk around the neighborhood, the movie, and then a brief look at the latest exhibit at the museum made for an absolutely delightful 4 hours.

As we were driving home, the thought struck me that my retirement should be filled with many more moments like this. At a certain age you realize putting off something until later may mean you have missed an opportunity that may not come around again.

Taking the time to embrace happiness, to do something different, and to experience the world around you doesn't require being retired. All of us, at any stage of life, can fill our lives with those special moments that can brighten our daily life.

But, being retired and relatively free to do what I want when I want, removes all plausible excuses. Taking the time to live and not just exist should be our goal.

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  1. I know just what you mean-there are so many things that I just don't get around to doing. After one year of retirement,I finally realized I sometimes have to schedule the fun stuff just like an appointment with the dentist.

  2. Donna,

    I have found that if I schedule fun stuff I tend to bump it down the list if something more urgent or "important" arises.

    What I am working on is being a bit more spontaneous. When an opportunity presents itself, I am trying to simply grab it.

    We'll see how that works out!

  3. I totally agree.
    Being spontaneous- together- is something we decided to work on about 4 weeks ago. We decided we needed to act like we did when we first met - when a drive to the mountains was something we planned on Thursday and did on Friday.

  4. Hi Bob,

    Just got to your blog after connecting on Twitter.
    Perfect timing as my wife and I just got back from our 4 mile walk...our yellow lab is doing the death pant stretched out on the floor. LOL
    We walk several days a week and I was thinking today that I cannot use the excuse that I don't have the time...cause I do now. I've been retired for a year, but do manage to keep very busy. The difference is,I'm in charge of the clock now! I have often thought that living in a year round temperate climate would be less stressful than here in New England. We have fewer months to plan projects, like house painting etc. Everything depends so much on the weather here. With our youngest still in high school, I think we're here for a bit. I could certainly see myself getting away to somewhere warm in the winter months though. :-)
    Look forward to reading more here...keep up the nice work.

    Best regards,

  5. Good day, Bill,

    I lived in the Boston area for several years while growing up. My parents were there for over 20 years until moving to Arizona to be near family. I am very aware of the limitations New England weather can put on plans and projects. But, just like the heat here in Phoenix, you find alternatives and work around it the best you can.

    Thanks for coming over from Twitter and I hope I see you as a regular reader and comment-leaver!

  6. Perhaps because we like routine and adventure takes more effort. At least that's my theory. I agree though, since the Portland conference I atended 3-4 weeks ago, I've put in a ton of effort to do different things and it's made me happier, and my husband has joined in too.

  7. Hey Sonia,

    Humans love their ruts! The thing you discuss on your blog and I take a stab at now and then, is that a rut is not very deep. It doesn't take a lot of energy to break out of it. But the payoff is tremendous.

    Note: I have an interview with Sonia, who has let a very gutsy life, that will appear here on July 8th. Look for it.

  8. Bob,
    It's a daily struggle. There are art shows in SF and even Sacramento but we haven't made the time to get there. We missed the El Dorado County Fair and the Placer County Fair. Neither my wife and I are the spontaneous type. We over organize. They only way we make things happen is to schedule them. It's sad.

  9. Ralph,

    How about scheduling spontaneity? Sounds silly, but maybe you can schedule a block of time that has nothing in it. Check out the paper for something going on. Or, maybe you just get in the car and drive to a pretty area or small town nearby and look in some antique stores or bookstores, or whatever are your triggers.

    Don't know if that approach will work for you but I'd be interested in what happens if you give it a try.

  10. Great thoughts here, Bob! I have a 6-week break over the summer and I've designated one of my weeks as an "aimless" week. I'm hoping the experience will help me break out of my routines more. I'm also taking a week to do a meditation retreat, which will automatically preclude some of my usual activities. I'm looking forward to a different spin on life during these periods. I'm so glad you and your wife enjoyed some new fun!

  11. Sandra,

    Your post about dividing up your summer into week-long blocks was the inspiration for this post! Taking the time to enjoy a new experience is an important part of living. We all know that a moment we don't seize is lost forever.

    Note: If you haven't seen Sandra's latest post, click on her name and read her piece on summer as a time for experiments.