May 1, 2021

Second Helpings and Retirement

 


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 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 change?

If so, you are entirely normal and human. Certainly, I went through a period in my life where I became so comfortable with a certain pattern of existence that I avoided most variety. I wasn't thrilled 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 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...not of food, but of experiences and a sense of opportunities waiting to be "eaten."

The last fifteen years of retirement have been some of the most satisfying of my (almost) 72 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 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, and that part of me is getting better.

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....maybe even an entirely new cuisine.


21 comments:

  1. Nice post Bob, it describes my desires for life, or at least what is left of it. I am a few years older than you so I am a little further down this road. I often quote a phrase that brings some raised eyebrows and that is "variety is the spice of life". 😜 It doesn't have to only apply to one part of your life. In my mind, the more new things you try the more satisfying your life is.

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    1. I am continually amazed by the variety of your blogs and how often you decide to refocus one (or more) of them. Add to that your interest in photography and yes, I would link the word "variety" to you.

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  2. If I had the body and health I did when I was younger (and didn't appreciate was an assess that was to taking second helpings of adventurous things) I would still be digging in. But I don't so my goals have mellowed out, but the satisfaction of doing smaller things gets deeper. I like to think of it as growing up. I stayed a kid until well past my prime.

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    1. You make an important point. Variety, or second helpings, doesn't have to mean a large or complicated change. Deciding to do almost anything in a fresh way qualifies as going back for second helpings. And, as I have found to my delight, sometimes one small change or addition, opens up other opportunities than become so satisfying.

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  3. I felt I was doing pretty well in my pre-retirement working life until the last 5 years. Until then I had an interesting job working with great people and received recognition for what we accomplished. That all changed 5 years before I decided to retire. There was new corporate management that intimated major restructuring chopping entire departments. I managed to survive the cutbacks by taking a role in another division of the company. I felt at 56 I was still a few years away from being where I wanted to be in terms of my retirement planning so I gritted my teeth and took the new role.

    The roles was a step down the career ladder but the company kept me at my same wages and I thought "I can do this". However after a couple of years I found it soul crushing and large parts of my new role was cutting staff levels while at the same time trying to keep local management onside with corporate decisions. With corporate pounding on me on one side to cut and local management complaining at every step it was, as my manger said: "A job where you get punched on both sides of your face".

    I probably hung on longer than I should have but it is so hard to pull the plug on your working life, something I had been doing and doing well for 40 years. Perhaps this was the staying in the rut playing it safe behaviour you mention Bob. Finally one day I recognized I couldn't do that job any longer, my mental an physical health was suffering, and I informed them I was retiring. It was scary, I had no pension so we'd be living on just our savings, but when it's time to go you know it.

    Once I did retire I wondered what I had worried about and why I had waited as long as I did. Six years later I can say that life is better now than it has ever been. Family relationships are closer, we've been able to do some long delayed travel (hopefully more to come post pandemic), I've completed an end to end hike of the 900km long Bruce Trail, and I hike in the rugged mountains of Mexico where we live each winter - something I never would have thought about doing while I was working.

    It's good advice you give Bob. Don't be afraid of change, risk or a little excitement. It will probably work out better than you imagined.

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    1. For 37 years I assumed I could do only one thing. I had fallen in love with what would become my career at age 12. By 15 I was working in radio, and stayed in that box until 52. Like you, I could see the end but was afraid to leave the ever-shrinking box that held and defined me.

      To my everlasting joy, that box was finally crushed into nothing, forcing me to confront a life without my security blanket. It has been tremendous. In our society, risk has been given a bad name. Actually, I think it is a good word to assign to being alive!

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  4. I take heart from late bloomers.

    Salesman Ray Kroc was 52 when he asked the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their drive-in burger joint.

    Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was 54 when he wrote Symphony No. 9.

    Pharmacist John Pemberton was 55 when he started to sell his invention, Coca-Cola.

    Pamphleteer Daniel Defoe was 58 when he penned Robinson Crusoe.

    Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was 59 when he directed Vertigo.

    Gas station operator Harland Sanders was 65 when he opened his first fried chicken restaurant.

    Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was 70 when he designed Fallingwater.

    Artist Grandma Moses was 78 when she first picked up a paint brush.

    Any gardener will tell you, patience and blind faith are the keys to an autumn harvest.

    "Here's to the late bloomers, holding on 'til our time arrives," says my friend Korby Lenker. Take a listen: https://youtu.be/BmtpT9jgC7c

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    1. Hail to all late bloomers, even if their accomplishments don't rise to the level of these folks. After all, at our stage of life, we shouldn't need the approval of others to do what makes us feel fulfilled and happy.

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    2. I think many late bloomers worked hard all their lives to become an overnight success.

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    3. Like Edison's thousands of failed attempts at making a working light bulb!

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  5. Hi Bob! I'm a big fan of reinventing myself and because I am a very curious person I tend to always be looking forward and imaging different ways of doing things. Do I do them all? Nope but it is that constant looking that makes life more interesting. And if I stay still too long I get restless. I suppose that is one reason why I keep trying new things with my blog now that I've been doing it nearly 10 years. This year I am working on an audio book of one of my books. And just like with my books (compilations of some of my blog posts) I am learning to do it all myself (with my husband Thom's help of course.) Will it be a success? Who knows? But the enjoyment of growing and learning as we go is critical. Congratulations on all you have grown to become and I look forward to seeing where you go from here! ~Kathy

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    1. I love seeing the pictures of you and Thom working at the animal shelter in your hometown. You and the dogs look so happy. Obviously, this is something you enjoy and fulfills a need of yours and your community. That is a win-win.

      Best of luck with the audio book project. I had a podcast for about a year. It was a fair amount of work, but was fun to try something different, just like recording your books.

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  6. I know we are a few years younger than you, but at 59 years old, I feel that we are living better than almost anybody we know. We have taken a lot of chances in life. Self employed almost the whole way. Sold our house and took off in a motorhome at age 45 with very few assets. Found a way to make it work. We just finished climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak at 19,340 feet. I don't feel like we require a shake up at all. :-)

    As we age, weight seems to pile on with virtually no effort.

    It's exactly because of no effort. Most people become sedentary as they age. It's all about calories in versus calories expended. Sure, there's a little more to it, but that's the basic premise.

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    1. Calories are like income: what comes in must have a relationship to what goes out.

      Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro...quite impressive at any age!

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  7. Your body has completely changed the cells within every seven years. We seem to move on that time line. Time for a new phase. We will be in Idaho in two months.Ready to get started on a "get the paperwork to help people be legal" campaign....

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    1. Tell me more about the paperwork campaign. Sounds like a good use of someone's time.

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  8. I just ran across a quote from the 60's author, Jack Kerouac, that is a good fit for this post: "What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?"

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  9. "We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one."

    Confucius

    Rick in Oregon

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  10. I like Rick's quote in the last comment too! I just caught up with your last post about meditation. Good for you. I start my day this way too. The best thing about meditation is what it does for the rest of my day, not just for the time I'm actually meditating. And also, meditation, like some of the other things you've taken up, like painting and guitar, are very much like the second helpings you talk about in this post.

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    1. Besides the 10 minutes in the morning with Betty, I find myself every once in awhile during a busy day, stopping to quietly breathe, and just focus on sounds or sights at that moment. So, meditation (or mindfulness), has become not only a habit but something I turn to when it is needed.

      The right side of my brain was underused before! Now, even though the painting or guitar playing will never amount to much, I find it fully satisfying which is really all that matters.

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