Diary

A Smaller Life


What kind of life do you live — or do you want to live?

Gorges du Verdon

Since retiring I think that my idea of what life is going to be for me has changed a lot. And this has nothing to do with COVID.

All my life I’ve been a bit of an oddball. I have known and accepted that as a fact and fortunately I found a wonderful woman who was interested in living her life with an oddball. There are a lot of contributing factors to just why I am who I am. Almost none of them are related to any kind of trauma. I’m sure that there are parts of my psychology that I am unaware of so I don’t rule that out altogether but in general I’d say I’m a pretty well socialized and pretty normal guy — aside from the fact that I’m not interested in the things that seem to make lots of friends and mates.

I never wanted to be the center of attention anywhere. That’s not my personality. When I have been forced into that sort of role I have done so grudgingly and I have had more than my share of supervisory/managerial jobs that I threw myself into because of the work and not because of the position. I suspect that’s why I found ways (from time to time) to be self-employed and not have to worry about reporting to anyone!. Being good at what you do results in accolades but accolades were never what motivated me. Which I suppose is another reason why I’ve been out of step with a great many people.

Retirement, and especially the past several years, have brought new meaning to the idea of living a smaller life. Before COVID I could scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t gone from home for an extended period at least once a quarter. Trips from a few days to several weeks just seemed to be part of life. I missed my wife, I missed out daughter, I missed our home but there was naught that could be done about it — so it seemed.

Peg & I often spoke about finding some “job” we could do together so we wouldn’t need to be separated. We never came up with a good solution so we kept our individual jobs and made the best of it. But when her opportunity to retire early arose it was the perfect time to make a significant change in our life.

There followed our 7 years of full time RV’ing. We loved the experience. We loved the lifestyle. We loved the people we met — and the fact that we didn’t have to have them in and around our lives all the time. We could make friends; get to know people; and by the time they figured out we didn’t have all that much in common with them either we or they had moved on to a new campground or a new volunteer opportunity or whatever.

Returning home to the Milwaukee area made a significant change to that state of mind. Suddenly we were back in the same place almost all the time. Health issues necessitated that we not travel as much, and then there were medical appliances that needed to be taken along when we did travel so the incentive to head out on a great adventure was lessened. It became easier and quite frankly nicer just to be near the house and not have to pack and unpack and fuel the car and so on. It’s been a gradual change but most of the time I’m quite happy not going anywhere — a complete role reversal from early in life when I couldn’t sit still.

I’m still interested in a huge array of things, but I’m happy to explore them from one place. But what I don’t need is the complications of a bigger life. And for the first time in life I’ve learned to be able to sit on a park bench and simply enjoy the view. Contentment is a wonderful thing.

I look at our daughter and her hubby, and at our granddaughter and her growing family and I’m ecstatic for all the exciting things they are doing and the challenges and rewards they are experiencing. But I’m also glad that is their life and not mine — right now.

I think back to when Peg & I were their ages — respectively. Now I understand my our parents behaved towards us as they did at the time. With age there comes change. Unfortunately it isn’t always growth — but it is change. Our parents ideas changed just as ours are changing now. It’s part of life and I welcome it. I may not welcome the changes in our body, but I do welcome the changes in life and just hope I can do as well in the future adjusting as we have up till now.

For those in the rat-race of early life I can only say I understand. I’ve been there and I feel for the struggles and aches — but I hope never to return to that state of mind. I can sympathize and I can listen — but we all have to find our own way in life and this is your time to find yours.

It’s a big world out there for you to explore. As for me, I’ll turn my eyes inward and down into the smaller world that “surrounds” us.

The extraordinary details of tiny creatures captured with a laser-scanning microscope by Igor Siwanowicz
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4 thoughts on “A Smaller Life

  1. Liz W says:

    You have captured so very well the changes that happen as introverts age. We don’t have too many regrets other than having to give up our RV and other travel sooner than we had hoped due to health issues. We sometimes shake our heads at the hectic lives our children and their families lead, but our family 40 years ago was not much different.
    People watching and enjoying beautiful scenery and wildlife are genuine pleasures these days. In a perfect world we would live in Duluth and watch Lake Superior!

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    • Interesting comment, Liz. We too stopped RV’ing earlier than we hoped because of health, but would never count that as a regret. Decisions we make for real life circumstances I never allow myself to view as a regret. It was a necessary change, We decided to accommodate necessity so to be there is nothing to regret. Under other circumstances we might have done any number of other things but each decision was the best we thought we could make at the time.
      The whole thing about ‘regret’ is a trigger point for me. If I have made the best of whatever situation I’m in there’s no reason to feel other than pride/happiness/contentment.

      Just one guy’s take.

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