December 3, 2019

How Would You Answer These Questions?

Hard to believe it has been this long, but almost four years ago a very popular blogger, Tess Marshall, decided to stop her The Bold Life blog and move onto other challenges. At one point a few years before she stopped posting, she published a list of 50 questions about personal growth. I printed that post and had it on my desk for probably a year or more.

Cleaning out old files last week and guess what I found? Some of the questions from Tess's list. I thought you might enjoy some of her questions and some of my confessional answers. I haven't updated my responses, except noting that my Dad has passed away since this was written, though the example I mention is worth repeating.

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?

(Written seven years ago. My dad passed away in 2015 at age 91). 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 gone, 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. 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. 

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. 


  1. Great Questions! My answers:

    #1 I admire spontaneous people but I'm not one. Like you, I'm a list and plan maker.
    #2 No, all my loved ones have died and my nieces and nephew live an hour and a half away so I don't see them often. Can I count the dog?
    #3 The longest I've gone without my electronic devices by choice is 12 hours. I do that probably once a month just because I still can and live to tell about it.
    #4 Yes on reading the book in the last two weeks.
    #5 Does shoveling snow count?
    #6 Don't laugh but I actually do look into my dog's eyes and tell him I love him. It's a bonding ritual. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. But seriously,

    1. Your answers makes me smile. Yes, count the dog, and keep telling him you love him. There is nothing like a dog's unconditional devotion to a human he trusts and protects.

      Shoveling snow...something I haven't had to worry about for the past 35 years.

  2. I am spontaneous, Ken is not, so I spice up our lives with impromptu visits to the Riparian park, a movie, or a lunch time out.. not so much on trips—those we plan in advance. I also keep a day planner but it has its of space in it for spur of the moment activities around the scheduled activities I have each week.

    Tonight is our tree trimming night and our son comes over for a nice meal and some memories.. it’[s so much fun pulling out those old ornaments,all of them have a story! We have a small family
    In town and we see our son often, the others not so much...they keep so busy and don’t seem to have time as often as IS woiuld like...

    No electronic devices? I have given up on this.I need to see there news every morning, and I check in with friends all over the globe,via facebook.I try to limit my time online but I don’t over tech anymore.. it’s a part of our lives.

    \That said, I also read books all the time! At least 2 per week! And I love YouTube’s and documentaries on TV. love the library and also I make a point to get out into nature every week , often..I ride my bike sometimes in early morning, or we walk the parks, or take a hike. Some days I just walk out front at dawn to catch the sunrise if I am up, and I like to have a glass of wine out back on the patio at sundown a couple of times a week.

    Friendship ,too, is important: I used to put work first but now, I make an point to make girlfriend dates for cards,movies,lunch, and I keep those dates religiously. It was hard at first since many of my friends still work, but I have found women who are retired also,now, and we savor our time!!!

    I am finding the longer I am retired, the more balanced it all becomes..I over-volunteered and felt I had to work part time m(real estate) in the beginning, but I cut back on the volunteer hours,and quit work completely,and I feel I am really getting the hang of being RETIRED now and it is glorious!!

    1. Like you, I am finding life is much more balanced now than it was when I first retired. As I delve more deeply into my spiritual questions, I am finding a growing sense of peace and connection that I didn't have before. Things are assuming their proper importance in my life that that is a tremendous help.

      Next year starts my 19th year of retirement. That it has been going on this long is amazing, but also somewhat shocks me that it took so long to understand the importance of balance and what really matters.

      No electronics? Never going to happen. More steps to protect what is left of my online privacy? Yes, though I think that ship has pretty much sailed.

      BTW, we are meeting one of our daughters and her doggie at the Riparian Water Ranch for a walk along those beautiful trails this weekend.

  3. P.S. Yes, Ken and I look into each other ‘s eyes every single night and kiss goodnight. I feel blessed with a good marriage.Without him I don’t know whose eyes I would gaze into!! ??

    1. After 43 years, I can confidently say I am more in love and have more respect and am more in awe of the woman I married in West Virginia all those years ago.

    2. You and Betty were married in West Virginia?! Do tell! Maybe that would make a good post at a time when you're looking for a lighter subject - how did you meet your spouse?

    3. A blind date! A co-worker set us up just 10 days after I moved to Morgantown. I still remember what she was wearing. Took me awhile to convince her I was the one (2 years!) but it was worth the wait.

    4. Awww, that's so sweet! And now you've celebrated 43 years together - good for both of you!

  4. I could be more spontaneous. Maybe I'll go take a walk in the park!

  5. 1) I'm becoming more spontaneous as I am retired longer, but I'm still a calendar keeper and list maker. Especially this month...the holidays make me a little crazy, I admit. But I would have hesitated to back out of anything while I was working. That constant drumbeat is gone and not missed. Just today I bailed out of something that was stressing me and I feel better. But DH & I did spontaneously go to a matinee of Knives Out yesterday and it was great entertainment.

    Yes to the rest except 24 hours without electronics. I can't imagine getting through winter without them, although I have cut back (or at least I tell myself I have). A good binge is a wonderful cold weather diversion (The Crown most recently). And since we're in the cold season, my nature interludes are short. But getting outside is imperative for mental health. Layers help, as do bare roads.

    1. I am finding the new season of The Crown quite interesting. The episodes are teaching me some history I didn't grasp when it was happening (coal mine disaster in Wales, for one).

      Like you, I could never go on an electronic fast, nor do I see a reason to do so. As noted in an earlier post I have thinned out the apps on my phone and am spending much more time listening to music (Spotify and old vinyl records) than mindlessly seeing what click-bait has been added to a web site. That has helped lower my screen time and kept me from obsessively checking the phone every 5 minutes.

  6. I liked your reply to Tom - ..or maybe not. That is spontaneous, too. When formal work commitments are out of the equation, it's much easier for me to be spontaneous. The last spontaneous thing I did was sign up for a Christmas craft class. And I'm like a kindergarten kid showing off the result. Early in my singledom, I was asked about my love life by a person I'd have least expected to be interested. My response then and now - if it's about romantic love, the answer is boring but if it's about love, my life is full. I have a strong circle of friends and family that keeps my love bucket full. I'm not reading a book a week but usually get one read monthly. I'm currently reading The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Nature is my medicine and feel right with the world when my sole (soul) meets the earth. If it's not a 1-2 mi walk, it's cleaning sidewalks, filling the woodbox. I don't disconnect from electronics for a day but it's easy for me to shut off the phone, internet, news for hours with no FOMO. If the grand essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love, something to hope for (a. k. chalmers), I am happy and trust that it all contributes to my personal growth.

    1. It all sounds like a beautiful balance and blend, Mona. While romantic love is a powerful force for many, "eros" is not the only way to express and receive love. You have given us some excellent examples of "agape" and "philos" love.

      I read the Huntress...I like Kate Quinn's work. I assume you have read The Alice Network by her.

  7. I cheated just a bit and did 1,2,5&6 all yesterday. DC Zoo has Zoo lights. We tend to go one certain night before Christmas, but there have been some issues in the zoo's neighborhood lately. Yesterday I called up my daughter and asked her to take all the kids out of school so we could go. Mid week, cold night should keep the wilding away. And so, spontaneously I drove to Maryland and picked up the crowd. I rode the carrousel with the littles- telling her how much we all loved her as she flew through the air. Held hands with the middle while he got in line to sled. And sat in awe with the oldest while we glimpse the moon through the trees. Times like these are precious.
    As far as giving up electronic- that rarely happens. I listen to music, read and communicate daily using electronics. I do not look at my phone once I come into my house though. If you cannot use the phone, it can wait.
    Book? I had a pretty serious injury two months ago. I have started and finished different books over the time---but cover to cover? I cannot think of one.

    1. What a fabulous, spontaneous trip to the Zoo for the lights.

      I couldn't do an electronic fast and wouldn't want to. But, that doesn't mean I can't be more mindful of when I grab for it.

      One step I took 2 weeks ago was to have my voice mail disabled. A dozen spam calls were coming in everyday and going to voice mail. Of course, I had to listen to them before erasing. So, now, if someone I don't know dials the number or tries to go directly to voice mail, the phone company says this number is not working. Family and friends know to text me to leave a message. This one step has been very liberating and put an end to junk calls and messages.

  8. I'm 3 out of 6 on your list but I won't tell you what they are (ha).

    The main point of this comment is to debunk the idea that you can't be both a list maker and spontaneous. The trick is to not fall in love with your list, but instead just toss it out the window when something better/spontaneous comes along. I do that very frequently.

    1. You are right. In fact, write at the top of every list: "Open to Revision At Any Time."

  9. Yes to all of them, except disconnecting from electronics. However, this summer quite a bit of our summer travels were in wilderness areas with no wifi or cell connectivity. You would be surprised at how freeing it is to disconnect, and the days seem longer and less crowded as well.



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