March 29, 2019

Changing Perspective: Listening With Fresh Ears

What was that ? A almost buried guitar part. intricate rhythm snippet on some sort of percussion instrument. Hold mean there were singers way in the background on that song I've heard hundreds of times? 

 A few months ago the stereo amplifier that I use to listen to music started to cause problems. After 27 years of faithful service I shouldn't be surprised. Even so, I became upset when sounds coming out of the right speaker had a crackle or hiss that didn't belong there. Things started sounding a bit muddy.

I tried different wires. I changed which input switch was responsible for my musical entertainment. Adjusting the equalizer or decreasing the treble setting didn't do it. Thinking that the WiFi wasn't up to snuff I tried rebooting everything or listening at times of the day when everyone in our neighborhood wasn't watching television. I even blamed Spotify, though on my phone the uninvited noises were absent.

After a week or two, I accepted reality: my old Panasonic amplifier needed to be replaced. Product reviews, searches on Amazon and Best Buy, and a quick check on Ebay, gave me several options. I picked one, had it sent to me and swapped out the failing one for the new version.

Within moments, I marveled at what had just happened. Suddenly, I could hear things that had been hidden in my favorite music for years. Even with songs I have enjoyed forever I was hearing all sorts of new things for the first time. I discovered a complexity of sounds and structure that had been buried by a poor amplifier.

Cymbals, subtle guitar parts, a violin that had avoided my detection completely, even background vocals I had never noticed, became beautifully alive. A classical piece displayed new depth and power. Vocals from France, rhythmic wonders from Africa, even Paul Simon music from the 70's revealed everything the artists had wanted me to hear when the music was recorded. It was akin to listening to rock music on AM radio and then suddenly discovering FM, or going from 45s to CDs.

Of course, I also confirmed that there is a lot of poorly produced music out there. Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen still sounds horrible. Diana Krall's voice is starting to show its age. Most of the hair band music from the 80's is just noise, no matter how much clearer it is. The lyrics of a lot of the 90's stuff are seriously not for children's ears

Even so, I find myself listening for hours a day to all sorts of music, some familiar, but mostly brand new. Spotify is now my best friend. Maybe I can't listen to all 30 million songs they claim to have, but I am going to make a dent, so help me!

As all that beauty, power, and artistry filled my head (and living room), so did an important insight: growth can come from changing one's perspective. Expanding our world and all its wonders can come from listening with fresh ears, seeing with newly opened eyes, smelling and tasting with gusto.

A change in how I experienced something as commonplace as music from a stereo opened up a new world, one that I thought I knew well. But, I didn't know how much was hidden until I found a new way to hear. 

Life can easily fall into a rut. We become comfortable and make assumptions about our options. A choice we have made might be the best one for us. But, without entertaining other approaches or solutions, we will never know.

March 25, 2019

Life: What Are You Trying To Teach Me?

If nothing else, six weeks away from these pages has given me plenty of time for reflection. On what? Oh, things like the powers of materialism and competition to complicate my life. On the desperately sad state of our public community and concern for others. On the importance of savoring every moment I am still on this earth. On God and spirituality and religion. On the pure joy of a simple, sunny afternoon with a good book to energize me.

Feeling blessed, with love of family and friends, knowing there is a financial foundation that will sustain Betty and me, opportunities to find ways to make my corner of the world a little less hateful and hurtful to others, and a fresh appreciation for allowing a day to unfold without forcing it into a particular direction have all risen to the surface.

Reading is a very important part of my life; it feeds and stimulates me. During this month and a half I was looking for both entertainment and writings that would force me to think a little deeper about things that are important. With much more free time, rarely did I not have a book nearby. Examples? Thank you for asking:

*The Litigators - John Grisham (pure escapism from a master)
*Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman (interesting fantasy concept)
*The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah (couldn't put it down..a must read)
*Everything Belongs - Richard Rohr (He answers my questions)
*The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff (well-written historical fiction)
*A Bigger Table - John Pavlovitz (the need for a different religious definition)
*Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman - (what have we become?)
*Reconciliation - Benazir Bhutto (written just before she was assassinated)
*The Ragged Edge of Night - Olivia Hawker (another historical fiction novel)

and, I re-read these:

Choosing Simplicity - Linda Pierce (reaffirmation)
Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritual Independent - Rami Shapiro (gave words to what I was questioning and feeling)

On the more physical side, Betty and I planted a vegetable garden, a first for us. Strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, watermelons and cantaloupe went into the soil in mid February. Hopefully, things will mature and be part of our salads by late April. If we are pleased with the results, the Phoenix climate will allow us to put in another batch this fall. I had a little more time for bike-riding and we both joined a new gym that is less than 5 minutes away; travel time is no longer an excuse. 

Most importantly, it became obvious I was ready to experience of change of direction, a change in attitude. Time away from a routine, whether it is six weeks, 6 days, or even 6 hours, can clear away a lot of the mental clutter we all accumulate. What society says is important can be assessed with fresh eyes. Decisions on how to spend one's time become clearer. The carryover from a life of productivity and constantly moving up the ladder doesn't have to continue, if that is best for now.

To that end, I determined I am ready to take life easier. I found the time is past when I am really interested in constantly pushing for new hills to climb or setting ever more ambitious goals. I found I am happy with where my life has taken me and what I have accomplished. I am not at the "Watching the Wheels" stage that John Lennon sang about. But, I don't mind if my own journey proceeds at a slower pace than it did. I am hard-wired to keep learning. I want to "collect" new experiences, new ways of being me. But, I don't feel the need to rush. 

Carlo Petrini, the originator of the Slow Food movement, said, "The art of living is learning how to give time to each and everything."  

I agree.

And, I am happy to be back writing! 

March 11, 2019

A Sabbatical Update

Today marks one month away from adding fresh material to Satisfying Retirement. Happily, several hundred folks a day continue to visit, to look at the archives, I assume, or see if I have dipped my toe back in the blogging water. The number of supportive and encouraging emails that I find in my inbox are very gratifying and encouraging, too.

I have begun to look at a move to Wordpress as my blogging home. Frankly, I didn't realize the amount of work involved in establishing an entirely new home for the blog on a new site. Making things look good is more involved than I had anticipated. While I think it best I do eventually move from Blogger, it is likely that this will continue to be my home for awhile.

I have been reading all sorts of books and spending extra time simply being quiet and content, looking for insights and fresh ways to think about retirement. There are always new readers, fresh to retirement or beginning to plan for this phase of life. Addressing the important issues of finances, relationships, time management, travel, spirituality, and creativity are vital to them and will continue to be at the core of Satisfying Retirement.

At the same time, for readers who have been with me for more than a few years it is important that I look for different ways to address some of the challenges we face. There are a few hardy souls who have been part of this blog family for almost as long as I have been here! I want to keep them surprised and pleased with new perspectives on familiar subjects.

I have reached an important conclusion about what I want from this blog. The days of trying to "grow" readership by using social media, podcasts, guest posts, or other avenues open to me are definitely moving to the back burner. Trying to increase advertising revenues isn't worth the effort to me. This isn't a business, it is a labor of love.

So, blogging will be more about satisfying me, pleasing you, and being content with the process. The size of the readership will be whatever it is; I am no longer pushing for the next million views. Advertising on these pages will be limited. Even pushing my various books will take a back seat to just having a good time writing and responding to your comments.

To keep the blog in proper balance with the rest of my life, when I return there will be a new post every 5th day, just a bit less than before. I have no plans for another book at the moment, though that doesn't mean I won't write one someday. I will probably restart the podcasts, but not immediately.

Satisfying Retirement is the name of the blog. I am adjusting things so it is more a description of my life, too.

I have begun to write some new material. When I have enough ready to go, I will be back. If you'd like me to give you a date, let's think about two weeks from today, March 25th, as the official end of the sabbatical.

That sounds doable. 

Please join me to see where we can go together.