Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thought for the Day -- Miles Kington

Intelligence is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting them in fruit salad.
-- Miles Kington

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Quote of the Day -- Ambrose Bierce

Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech that you will ever regret.
-- Ambrose Bierce

They're so young and maybe they've never suffered, but...

One of my favorite blogs is Marc and Angel Hack Life. They do a great job of bringing together ideas about how to do better and feel better every day, but...
I look at their photo on their Web site, and they look so young. I feel a little guilty about the pleasure and inspiration that I often get in reading their posts. After all, shouldn't wisdom come from people who are older and more experienced (like me)? Can they really dispense sound advice when their smiling young faces so clearly say that they've never suffered?

My book club had this debate recently. We had read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
One of our members felt highly resentful that someone like Rubin, who had a good life and was already quite happy, would presume to embark on a project to be even happier and to share it with others. The rest of us rather enjoyed her light-hearted approach to improving on what was already pretty good. I appreciate people like Rubin who have the right balance of dispensing good information and advice without pontificating or taking themselves too seriously. (And I despise sports announcers who don't seem to realize that it is, after all, just a game.)

I have great admiration for people who have suffered tragedy or hardship and don't (like my book club friend) resent those who haven't. People like me whose lives have gone along pretty smoothly feel strong twinges of guilt when we see the misfortunes of others, particularly our friends and relatives. And I confess to being a bit superstitious as well, muttering "there but for the grace of God go I."

It isn't my fault that my life has been more fortunate than others. Certainly, I've worked hard and been careful, but so have others I know who are not so fortunate. I hope that my good fortune makes me both empathetic and generous. And yet, I think I'm still entitled to strive for improvement, to seek enrichment, and read advice about how to relish each moment and make it a little better. You never know how long the good moments will last, so why not live them to the fullest?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reflections on a "Do It Now" Retirement

Do it now! -- Duane Comport (1923-2012)
Many other people have no doubt said this, but my dad made the biggest impression on me with these words.
Three years ago, I made the decision to retire. Although I'd been debating with myself for several years, in the end, deciding to retire was easy. We'd done the spreadsheets to know I could retire. Then my mom got sick, which meant I should retire. And her illness also revealed to me how much I wanted to retire. I no longer loved my job. And I had no stomach for walking the tightrope between personal and professional life that I had accomplished so successfully (most of the time) when raising my kids. I didn't feel I had the energy to do that with an ailing mom and a no longer "do it now" dad. So, retire I did. For such a momentous decision, it was ultimately made in "Do it now!" style.

Fortunately, my mom's illness proved to be symptom-free for quite a long time. It got her in the end, in February of 2012, but until the last two months, she was relatively healthy and mentally as sharp as ever. So I had the luxury of learning to be retired and doing all the things I wanted to do, more or less, while still spending time with my parents.

That's where the "do it now" dilemma of retirement comes in. I've discovered in my almost three years of "leisure" that retirement is its own kind of balancing act -- teetering between "I should" and "why should I?" 

Without the daily grind and monster to-do list, life becomes a wonderful and scary blank slate. A retiree's to-do list becomes mostly a list of your own making, with your own idiosyncratic priorities. And things that you thought you would do, such as writing regular blog posts, somehow keep getting shuffled to the bottom of the list.

I recently took a fun class -- at least fun for a "writing nerd" like me. The class reminded me of how much I love to write, which I know is hard to believe because most people hate to write. I also started reading the wonderfully funny book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I found myself saying over and over "I wish I'd written that." So I'm determined to give it a whirl. I'm not completely sure what my "voice" will be. But here I am... Just Jelan.