August 30, 2015

A Life of Second Helpings

Remember second helpings? When you were younger with a body that would allow you to eat almost anything without gaining an ounce, second helpings were probably quite common. The food was good, you still had room to squeeze in more, and the platter beckoned you to help yourself. You may have felt stuffed when you were finally done, but so what. Even cotton candy was on the menu. Life was good.

As we age weight seems to pile on with virtually no effort. We have learned that our body will gain pounds and inches just by thinking about food. Second helpings are a fond memory. We eventually learn to push back from the table.

What about in other things? Have you developed the habit of pushing back from the table of life? Do you "know" that certain things just aren't good for you, or probably not worth the effort? Instead of pounds are you afraid of changing?

If so, you are entirely normal and human. Certainly for me, I went through a period in my life where I became so comfortable with a certain pattern of existence I avoided all change. I wasn't particularly happy with the rut I had parked my life in but I was comfortable, and comfort tends to win. That is sad. When I think back to what could have been during those years, I wish for a magic wand that could give me a partial "do-over."

What was it that kept me living a life that was far less than it could have been? 

  • Fear of change and the risks involved
  • Fear of the unknown. I was doing OK with the known
  • My family seemed to be prospering. Why shake them up?
  • I had to act age-appropriate, didn't I? I had responsibilities
  • I had expenses. The cash flow had to be maintained
  • I knew how to do one thing. What else could I do?

It took a major jolt to my nice, safe, tidy, little world for me to understand I had been pushing back from the table of life for years. What happened? My business died. It faded away to nothing a good 10 years before it was supposed to. I was kicked out of my rut and into retirement before I was ready.

Guess what? I landed feet first with a burst of insight and and clarity that money and security and safeness had been hiding: I disliked what I had been doing and how I was spending my one and only life on earth. I had been avoiding life by pretending to live.

From that moment on, I wanted second helpings. I wanted to repair the damage to my marriage. I wanted friends. wanted to know God and deepen my spiritual side. I wanted to push myself. I wanted second helpings.

The last several years of retirement have been some of the most satisfying of my 66 years. It took a kick out the door of comfort, but I finally realized how much more I was capable of. The box I had drawn for myself was too small for the person inside. Most of the limits were self-imposed. I had become afraid of stretching myself.

Am I a wild and crazy guy? No. Am I likely to walk across Africa or live in a tent in Alaska during an Arctic winter just to prove I can do it? Not going to happen. How about a 100 mile bike ride? Nada. Will I surprise myself occasionally by tackling something new and different? Yes, though still not often enough. I am very much a work in progress.

I am willing to bet there are parts of your life that could use a shakeup. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to think of a few ways you want to add a dash of change, a pinch of excitement, and a spoonful of risk to your satisfying journey. Come on, admit it, there are times when you really would love going back for second helpings. 


  1. I started my "second helping" when I was 53 years old and had to leave work after what my boss said to me. What did he say that so offended me? He said, "You're fired!" Ever since then I've been less well off financially; but much better off in every other way.

    1. Sounds like you may be channeling your inner Trump!

      Like you, Tom, my finances were not where I wanted them to be when I became retired, but things have worked our very well.

  2. Interesting how something written 4 years ago can be just as relevant now, if not moreso, in this journey called life.

    Couple of things Deb and I will do to get out of our comfort zone (actually more outside Deb's, but I digress. ) This winter we'll take off for 6-8 weeks through the South and probably only have a place locked down for the first week. If we like a location like North Myrtle Beach at that time we'll stay longer; if not we'll push on. Since we always have our times away locked in, this trip will be different.

    Also, after a lifetime (it seems ) of the corporate grind I have let my hair grow; it's down to the shoulders and longer than the college days in the early 70s. As long as it's not too much of a hassle it will keep getting longer. Why? I still can, and just for something completely different. It does give a somewhat odd first impression for some people which is largely dispelled when we start talking.

    I'll stand down for now. Look forward to hearing other folks thoughts on your topic.

    1. I had hair that long back in my days of rock and roll DJ. Now, it is growing faster in my ears than my head. Betty did get me to try a beard. I didn't like the look but kept the goatee (for now). Women get to change their appearance all the time with different hair color and styles, different wardrobes. Guys are more stuck with one look. I applaud you for letting your hair grow. Others will adapt. If they don't, that is their problem.

    2. I'm a New Yorker who happened to move to North Myrtle Beach six years ago, so I find ChucY's comment kismet. I knew two people---and they only live here part time in the summer.
      To say it pushed me out of my comfort zone is way understating it.
      I moved from a 630 square foot coop to a free standing house. I am a person who grew up with a father who spent his life waiting for the super though we had our own home so I'm incredibly unequipped for home ownership. My house is still standing and looks better than ever.
      Buying a house and renovating it during the depths of the recession was very risky and scary. But I saw how much this community has and how much it could have. It's paid off.
      I'm different than the people here---different religion, different POV's on just about everything. But and this is a big but--people have more in common than our very superficial differences and as I'm learning maybe I'm teaching.
      I have never felt as settled as I do now. Yet I'm always ready for new adventures.
      NMB is much better in the spring, summer and fall than in the winter. I love it in winter but I love the semi--solitude and peace that time of year brings here. We show off with music every week, a great new park, the large and wonderful beach from April to October.

  3. As I get older, and painfully wiser (painsfully because getting wiser is always the result of learning from our mistakes :-) I appreciate that it is never to late to do better.

    One recent change for the better is a result of having been on the road in our travel trailer for six weeks without TV. I say 'without' because though we carry a small TV, we have chosen to leave it turned off. Instead, we have spent our evenings reading, sitting outside talking and enjoying fresh air, and playing card games. I have read volumes, as has Mike, and we are sleeping the sleep of the dead. There is always a risk of sliding back into old habits when we return home, but we are both going to make a sincere effort not to let that happen.

    And though I often get poked fun at because of my tendency to make plans so far out (as in 2016 travel planning is pretty much done . . . ) one reason I like to do so is it allows me to work backward and inject new things into my/our lives in preparation. One activity is prompting us to renew our efforts to learn Spanish, another is sending us back to the weight room to beef up our quad muscles, another is putting me into the spotlight at our Lifelong Learning program. And while I wouldn't describe any of these changes as necessarily comfortable in the moment, I have become addicted to the sense of accomplishment they deliver once completed. It keeps life fun, and very interesting.

    1. You and Mike are inspirations to those who know you. Your life is a constantly evolving more like an etch -a-sketch that you shake up and redraw.

      Our 2016 will make up for a disappointing 2015 in terms of travel: Palm Spring Film Festival, Alaskan Cruise, and Hawaii and New Zealand for 3 weeks. Throw in a few shorter RV trips and we will be busy.

      Your comment reminded me to check on the Life Long Learning programs at ASU.

  4. I guess I never stayed in one place long enough to get into a rut. I've always been adaptable out of need. Now I'm very satisfied with life in our new home, but things are getting interesting on the creative front, so there are still adventures to have!

    1. Moving from the city to the shore has to stimulate most of your brain cells. Artists always look for second, third, even fourth helpings from life!

  5. Even though I've lived in one house for multiple years several times in my life (my mom called me a tap-root person, meaning I set down deep roots & didn't move easily) I notice that in many ways I keep stepping out of at least some of my comfort zones; knowing the bare minimum about maintaining buildings, this last year I began working with our Facilities Maintenance team(s) ---wow! learning cliff (much steeper than a learning curve!) but rewarding as I see it coming together.

    This is, however, a great reminder to look at ALL my comfort zones & what I am avoiding....some of us (ahem) need to step outside of our comfort zones, slow down & actually take care of ourselves. I'm getting there, but that area is still a "tomorrow I'll deal with it" space in my life. Now that I am 66 & retired, continuing to put it off might be counter-productive. As we work through my partner's cardiac issues, I'm reminded that humans (including me) are not indestructible.

    I've really enjoyed our local Lifelong Learners' classes; they have one coming up on Virtual Villages (you had a post on this awhile back). I have to admit that isn't as far outside my comfort zone as some other pieces of my life, but the Lifelong Learners are fascinating!


    1. The Lifelong Leaners' classes are a great resource. I have taken several classes through Coursera and other on-line options. Some are really engaging, some are not. But, since they are free it is nice to be able to sample a course and decide if it is worth the time and energy.

      Next year is our 40th anniversary. We have decided to bust the budget big time for two trips. As you note, we are not indestructible so we want to do them while we can.

  6. We stepped waaay out of our usual routine in our first year of retirement and now have to backtrack a bit! LOL! Life is what happens while you're making other plans.A little LESS excitement this year will be right up my alley.. we're getting re established in our house in the Valley, joining yoga groups, attending a new church, and reconnecting with friends.. we may do a drive trip to Santa Fe in the autumn and maybe our fave beach:Rocky Point in October.. your posts remind us that we do need to keep growing and exploring...

    1. Your journey this past year is an excellent example of having to change plans after finding your original idea didn't work out the way you had hoped. Remaining flexible is the key.

  7. Great post. I am working on shaking things up. It involves taking some risks, but I've been on the sidelines for too long.

    1. Is it so easy to find oneself on the sidelines. Just "staying the course" isn't a way to live life to its fullest.

      Shake it up, Gail !!!!


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