Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of my 'retirement' from 20-plus years of newspaper work. What, if anything, have I learned?
-- I've learned that the retirement stories that appear in newspapers are largely eyewash that don't even begin to scratch the surface of the human adventure ... but then that's true of a lot of other stories that pass as news.
-- I've seen more doctors in a year than I had in the previous ten.
-- I've learned, like all aging people, that things tend to slip away. Only it doesn't feel that way to me. To me it feels more like a surprise at how much I imagined and assumed I could be attached to with any concrete foundation. Work, for example, took up eight hours a day and was implicitly important. "Important" just means I think I am important. But in any case, work was a long-term habit, just as remembering the days of the week was a long-term habit. Long-term habits don't stop overnight, but they do demand some attention and revision.
-- More bad news is less astounding.
-- Relying on others, while odd, is possible.
-- Although they don't say so, I think my aging bores and frightens my children, much as I suppose it once bored and frightened me. I have become, in some sense, what I feared and it's not that interesting.
-- The innocence that once marked youth is as much in evidence when aging: What the hell, you've never done this before either. What was shattered in youth is likely to be shattered with age.
-- The Hindus -- somewhere or other -- have a timeline that marks a life: In youth, we play and learn; in our twenties-plus, we work and raise the children; and in old age, we devote ourselves to spiritual life. As generalizations go, I suppose it's OK. But the same slip-sliding effect that has marked other aspects of aging and retirement has also affected spiritual fervor as well.
-- When someone says "keep busy," my question is, "why?"
-- I do miss people of a similar fabric ... people to whom you can tell the punch line of a dirty joke without telling the whole joke. Or people who have the timeline for the Revolutionary and the Civil wars straight in their minds.
-- Convincing others becomes less and less convincing, no matter how loud the volume or how sincere the effort.
-- I also miss people who can reflect on their own arguments and try to see that what is right can also be terribly wrong ... and vice versa.
-- As Mark Twain once remarked on how much smarter his father became as Twain grew from 14 to 21, so it sometimes seems that I am on the opposite trajectory when it comes to younger souls. Still, I do try to keep my mouth shut about it.
.... and there is probably other stuff as well, but I can't think of it just now.