Self-Taught Lessons


When we faced retirement one of our goals was fashioning a retirement that would offer us continuing challenges and opportunities for growth.  Growth implies change; development; the opposite of stasis.  It was a lifelong philosophy that a day in which I didn’t learn something new was a wasted day — and I tried never to waste a day in my life.

Nearly 6 years on into retirement our life has changed, a lot, but our goal has not.  I still look for challenges and opportunities to learn and to grow — but I do it in different ways. The health challenges we discovered a couple years ago have necessitated a not so gradual and not so inconsequential alteration in our activities but that doesn’t mean we have lost interest in growth or gotten tired of learning.

It dawns on me how important paying attention to your self and your surroundings is.  Surely the best example of what happens when you don’t do that is the current inhabitant of the White House.  He surely is his own worst enemy simply because he seems incapable of learning from his own mistakes — which mistakes are never HIS, and always someone else’s.  But that’s not what I want to think about this morning.

What is important IS paying attention to your own life and surroundings.  Hopefully we all learn something from our experiences; but realistically we don’t always.

I know there have been times in life when I thought I was “good” at something, and I tried it and pretty quickly discovered that I wasn’t all that good at it!  I could have put a lot of time and effort into becoming good at it, but the fact of the matter often turned out to be that I really didn’t care that much about the thing to WANT to get good at it.  This idea that failure is not an option is nonsense;  some of us are naturally better at some things than others and why not invest most of your time and effort into being excellent at what you do well, and forgetting about what you might only be fair to middling at?

When I was in first grade I was a terrible reader.  I came home with failing grades in reading my my parents hit the roof.  That summer I “joined” the Billy Bookworm Club at the local library — not so much that I joined as my mother took me down there, checked out the first 5 books (as many as my library card would allow) and took me home with a schedule of how much I was to read daily, how I was to report on what I had read to insure that I actually DID read the books, and when we were going back to the library to get more books.  By the end of the summer I was an excellent reader.  By the second summer I had discovered something pretty neat for little kid:  if I wanted to do anything all I really had to do was be a good reader because by reading I could learn anything I wanted.  Little did I realize in 2nd grade what that really meant but that simple lesson got me started on a lifelong love of learning.

There were things I was sufficiently passionate about to devote my 10,000 hours to — to get really good at them, and I’ve written about the 10,000 hours theory in the past — but not everything has to be about expertise and I’ve enjoyed learning a bit about a lot of things..

Lately books haven’t been involved so much.  I’ve been learning about other things:  mostly my limitations.  When you take a drugstore of meds you become aware of side effects — and some of them aren’t the most desirable — so you adjust.  When you discover physical limitations about which you were ignorant you tend to fight the adjustment in lifestyle until the limitation puts you in your place.  No one can teach you these lessons.  There are some lessons you simply have to learn for yourself.

I’m really happy we did the RV thing.  And whether or not we end up staying in Texas — either full or part time — I’m glad we bought this house in Los Fresnos.   It has been a real learning experience.  In many good ways.  Actually, I can’t think of any way it’s been a bad experience.  Life has always been an adventure and being on the road certainly continued that adventure; so has being in the heat of S. Texas.  And, you don’t embark on an adventure of you are a miser.  I suppose we could have done things that didn’t cost as much.  But we also would not have had the wealth of experiences we did.  So to me the cost/benefit analysis has us on the PLUS side.

Right now as we look ahead I think we face a new kind of challenge.  One thing I have noticed about aging people in my life is that there comes a time when they become less the active force upon others and more the party being acted upon.  Having been an active force all my life learning to be less active and allowing myself to be acted upon is going to take some learning.  I’m not sure how well I’ll adjust.  Oh, don’t get me wrong — I’m not ready to be there yet.  Not by a long shot — but I recognize that it’s a part of life — and I see that already there are little ways I need to adjust my expectations and my goals.

The idea of buying this mobile home in an RV park was a suitable compromise for us when we were still in the motorhome.  We have long side that after our experiences with home-ownership that we didn’t think we’d want to own PROPERTY — with the key emphasis being upon land.  Owning a mobile home that stands on someone else’s land, land that isn’t subject to snow that has to be shoveled, and land that is mowed and managed by someone else — that was just fine.  As we think forward a new question comes to mind.

Bearing in mind that we have always been big on landscaping projects when we have owned property.  Even here we have undertaken our raise planting bed.  The question comes to mind are we the sort of people who would be happy living for “the rest of our life” without a garden, or without a place that we could adjust in various ways.  We have said, and repeated many times, that when we got rid of the RV we would look for an apartment.  The word “apartment” by definition implies that it’s a rental situation.  Which word has always been there in my brain but it’s not a word that has sunk in very well into my cerebral cortex.  And I find myself asking, “will I be happy being in a place where I can’t tear out a wall if I choose, or where I might have to ask someone’s permission to replace an appliance — and not get approval?  It’s a perplexing ponder for a guy who’s pretty much done what he thought best for most of his life.

People joke about the fact that D. Trump has never worked for anyone in his life — he started out at the top of the corporate ladder, well, in various ways I think a lot of us share aspects of that life.  When we are young we make the decisions. We are all in different situations so not all of our decisions are as grand as someone else’s but still, we do make pivotal choices in life that send us down various paths from which we can escape, or from which we cannot escape.  The whole “american” idea of self-determination is rooted in making choices.  And when you are no longer able to make them… then what?  Or what about when those choices have to be aimed at maintaining mundane necessities instead of alluring luxuries?

It’s like our country.  When the country was young it was an exciting time.  The opportunities were unlimited and the nation could expand in virtually any direction it chose.  Gradually the expansion options became limited — North and South but we could still expand to the West.  Then expansion became building, and building became redevelopment and now we have a country that has less opportunity for outright “Growth” and more obligations to “Maintenance”  — to maintain and rebuild the fundamentals like water and power and sewers and roads and … you get the idea — clearly politicians are struggling with that because part of what needs to be maintained is the infrastructure of the country and the infrastructure of the population — in the form of healthcare.

I hope I can keep on learning from my own experiences.  I don’t see any reason why that should not happen.  I can look forward into the future and anticipate some of what may happen, but not all.  None of us is granted more than a glimpse of what “might” be.  All we have is the eternal now.  Still, I’d like to think that I’ve paid attention to life’s previous lessons and maybe that will help me learn the lessons of the future.

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2 Comments

  1. There are apartment complexes where people are encouraged to participate in maintaining flower gardens, and those where residents are allotted garden plots, and cities where residents have remote garden spots–usually under a row of power towers. Plus some apartments let you do container gardening on your balcony/patio. So moving into a rental unit does not necessarily mean the end of gardening for those who enjoy it.

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    1. Linda,

      You’re right!

      LOL — I loved your observation about the public gardens “usually under a row of power towers” — how true. Community gardening is a growing phenomenon at a time when green space is getting harder to find.

      Options are out there. We’ll see what’s available at the appropriate time. At the moment we’re thinking our way through; but no matter what a person decides their options are always tweaked by availability at the moments. Right? 🙂

      >

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