Retirement May Be the Best Time of Our Life
That Blessed Taste of Freedom
I must have said it dozens of times at various social gatherings, and here I am saying the same again - the happiest moment of my life was the one when the big gate opened for me at that military base and I walked out a free man after completing my military service. Freedom always meant life to me, in more than one aspect of it - physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
So something similar happened on my last day of work about six years ago. The company wanted to throw a farewell party for me, which I gratefully declined, because I am not much of a formality person, and besides, those who wanted to say friendly things had done it already over the years, and didn't need speeches to make it sound official.
Interestingly, Some Are Scared of Freedom
As the big moment was approaching, I had a chance to hear a variety of comments, most frequent one being : "You are so lucky". A couple of those younger ones would say something hypothetic like : "Would you trade places with me?", to which I answered with something equally hypothetic like : "Yes, as long as you are willing to trade ages as well."
Then some also commented how they were dreading the moment of their retirement, because they had no clue how they would be using their time. I responded somewhat philosophically, which is anyway not so rare thing to come out of my mouth : "Well, you are going to need something to kill the time with - rather than allow the time to kill you".
The Joy of Being One with the Nature
One particular guy could not hide his envy, which he expressed by saying : " What are you planning to do with all that free time - feed the pigeons in the park every day? " I remember that one every time when I am walking in my favorite park-forest admiring the flowers.
Flowers fascinate me, and probably nothing other than their color and intricate design makes me think about the creative intelligence hiding behind it. But yes, I also feed small animals; although, that guy was wrong, it's not the pigeons, but squirrels, ducks and chipmunks, and some tiny birds that come to my extended palm to peck on sunflower seeds.
And neither I do it "every day" like he said that I would; even though I wish I did, because in my case it's like a walking meditation giving me an enormous sense of peace and an attachment to the nature.
No Workouts for Me
In that respect I was lucky to have been born as a meditative type, not really an action type, even though I enjoy travelling and experiencing new things in life. But at the basis of my deep needs - give me some books, some music, oil painting, an inspiration to write something, meditation, and certain other activities like self-hypnosis and alpha-training, and I'll be content and complete while immersed in that.
Not to forget crossword puzzles, seeing friends, going picnicking and stuff. But definitely NO jogging, tennis, hiking, or any workouts for me please. Especially workouts, which remind me of a funny guy's saying : "The only workout I do is walking on the funerals of my friends who used to workout a lot".
I don't know how I do it, but I keep myself in my relatively athletic shape with my mind. Years back one lady on the job asked me if I had ever played a football quarterback - because I "have a body shape of one of those". Hell no!" - I said - tired at the very thought of it.
Not Customary in this Culture
Now, rumor has it, or is it a fact, that the old folks on the Okinawa island, and generally in that part of the world enjoy a special status of wise advisers - which makes them feel needed and useful to the society, while significantly prolonging their life.
As you know, not here in the western culture, where the young ones "know it all" - even when they are royally messing up their affairs on every field on the stadium of life. God-forbid that you would happen to blurt out something like an advice, as they are bound to slap you with that classic one of the generation gap : "Don't treat me like I am five years old".
Your expertise is only recognized in the field of baby-sitting - but even there you may get some "updating" instructions that were not necessary while you took care of their little asses.
Not My Idea of Aging
My balcony window faces an Old Folks Home, with some of its scenes that serve me as a constant reminder of how I don't want to turn out some ten years from now. As I am observing those old specimens, it's so obvious that they never had a hobby that they would bring into their advanced age.
Those empty eyes and poker-faces gives you an impression like everything around them is a big surprise to them - like a bright colored car passing by, which they will follow with their eyes as far as their stiff necks are allowing it.
Those with stronger hearts are taking a chance by observing a young chick in high-cut pants passing by. Who the heck knows how they register that experience, but certainly not one bit of the way that I still do. And not without a deep sigh and mumbling "Boy, it's so good to still feel so young".
When Work Is "All There Is"
You've got to love life at any age, as there are so many interesting things - other than young chicks in short-cut pants - that give a spice to life. Travelling is definitely one of them. My late father used to be a workaholic who only found his "true self" on his job as a plant maintenance mechanic.
More than money, his reward was when he fixed a machine and got that pat on the shoulder by the production boss, as the machine started behaving again. I remember the time when my wife and I just came back from an unforgettable trip in Cancun, Mexico, enjoying those beaches and a whole day visit to Chiche-nitza, the Mayan ruins.
Showing off our photos I asked him why he never took his wife to a resort place. He gave me a look like I just fell down from Mars : "Who, me? What would I do on a beach?" He retired when he was 76, and spent another 13 years in a misery of arguing with his nagging wife.
Arguments Don't Make a Good Hobby
Talking about arguing in retirement, this would be another strong reason to have a hobby. To an unfortunate majority of retirees boredom is an additional nail in their casket, other than their general bad health - which might as well have been caused by that boredom, that emptiness, sameness, and lack of any interest.
No wonder they develop something like a short fuse in the process. From what I can see around, it's crucial that couples settle their individual differences long before their retirement, so that they can enjoy a smooth sailing in their advanced age.
It's sad when you see them in a relative financial security and health - but constantly bickering at each other. I mentioned to an aging group how my wife and I never argue, when one lady, with eyes wide open shouted : "You don't argue?! What do you do the whole day long?!"
Baby-sitting Is Not a Hobby
Being a helpful grandparent, no matter how emotionally rewarding it may be is still more of a chore than a hobby, and should never be seen as one. For one good reason that sooner or later those cute little angels happen to turn into those strange creatures called "teenagers".
At that point they drop you from their world, and you start facing emptiness which wouldn't be there with a hobby or two in your life. If you are lucky, you can get a glimpse of them at family functions, and with an extra luck you may get something like a hug - because hugs are not really "cool", you know.
Well, of course, I am not generalizing here, and in some families there is a strong bond between all generations involved, but you must have seen those that I am talking about.
Get Something that Needs You
Depending on our mental fitness and our general "emotional climate", as I like to call it, all of us could find something that would arrest our interest and make us passionate at the old age. Even though I haven't made a big deal out of hobbies so far, it goes without saying that they can definitely prolong our life, and allow us to spend those years in a better heath.
When brain starts rusting, body follows that path in a hurry. So, find that purpose, that interest, that something which will give you an additional reason to get out of the bed each morning. If juniors in the family are not providing that feeling of being needed, get yourself a pet, even a little bird will do, something alive that loves you and depends on you daily.
Scientists are telling us that even house plants have feelings, so if you want to opt for something "quiet that you don't have to take out for a walk", there you go, get yourself some of those decorative plants, they will love you as well.
Make Happiness Your Primary Hobby
I saved the most important for the last - so, more than anything, cultivate and maintain your happiness. Happiness may not seem to qualify for a hobby, but it is, because you have to work on it, it won't just happen to you.
It's an attitude of gratefulness and appreciation, of feeling good about who you are as a human being, and seeing your past years as free of regrets, grudges, and other bad memories. That's what serenity is all about - that wisdom of having learned our life lessons, the most important one being - that fussing over anything doesn't help, but only makes things worse.
Indeed, retirement may turn into the most rewarding time of our entire life. So, be happy every morning as you baby-talk to your house-plants and your pet. And don't forget to use some of those same words to that human being who has shared your life through all joys and sorrows. Make that the dearest part of your hobby - called - life.