I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Go outside and play

My current favorite book
When I was a little girl, I often heard the admonishment from my mother to "go outside and play." She wanted to be by herself, or she had a project that she couldn't do with me and my sister underfoot, so we were told to find something to do that would give her some time and not have to worry about us. My sister and I would often take our dolls (when we were very young) and play with them in the back yard, pretending to be grownups with babies of our own.

Now that I am old, I still find myself wanting to play in the outdoors. Mama was right that it was a good thing to do. I have vague memories of coming inside after a day of play, grimy with dirt under my fingernails and having my hands scrubbed clean so I could sit down at the dinner table and be presentable. Well, I have learned from the book in the above picture that the earlier activity has carried me into my later years with a healthy love of the outdoors. Early next year, I will have been retired from my career for a decade, ten years of life lived without the structure of a job.

And what have I done with the time? As many of you know, I am not comfortable without some kind of structure, so I created my own daily routine, and I've been very happy inside of it. I wake early, as I did when I was working (it's 5:30am as I write this) and start my day by getting a cup of tea and climbing back into bed, propped up so I can read and write on my laptop as my partner continues to sleep next to me. He's late to bed and late to rise, but I find that it's not the same when he decides (as he occasionally does) to get up while I'm sitting here tapping away. I miss his presence, even if he's not actually conversing with me. Our connection is strong even in silence.

The reason I have introduced you to the book above, Aging Well, is that I've been reading it for quite awhile now. I have it on my Kindle and when I climb into bed at night, I open it and read a bit until I feel ready to snuggle under the covers and fall asleep. Rarely do I read for more than a few minutes, but sometimes I get pulled in and end up reading a little longer. The last few nights I have actually been looking forward to reading more; he tells stories throughout the book about people who have found ways to have satisfying and healthy lives well into their ninth decade. I'm currently reading the chapter on retirement. He suggests that there are four things we need to be happy in these later years.

(1) A social network. Once we leave our work life, he says, we need to replace our work mates, those we spent time with daily, with others we can interact with in meaningful ways. I realize that the world of the Internet has helped me to develop interests that I would not otherwise have been exposed to. Blogging is a fantastic social network, for me at least. And (dare I say it?) Facebook.

(2) Rediscover how to play. He suggests that "play provides a wonderful magic that is especially suited to retirement, for play permits a person to maintain self-esteem while giving up self-importance." And as you know about me, I'm particularly happy to go outside and play, gathering what I will need for a day outside in the wilderness with my other retired friends.  I also enjoy heading off to the movies with my friend Judy, or playing word games with my partner. Anthropologist Melvin Kohner points out that "play is an expenditure of energy that is both pleasurable and impractical."

(3) Creativity. When we are busy earning a living, it's not always possible to allow ourselves to be creative. When I first read this, I didn't actually think I am a very creative person. However, he explains that being creative means bringing something to the world that didn't exist before. It could be something as simple as cooking something new, or taking out watercolors and painting a picture. He says in the book, "Talent is just as important to 78-year-old Mary creating plum jam for the admiration of her doctor as it was to 80-year-old Georgia O'Keeffe in her studio eliciting admiration from thousands."

(4) Lifelong learning. The author suggests that to have a happy retirement, one needs to keep on learning new things. Learning about the world around us can continue whether or not one has much income. I make use of my library to read all the books I want, on every subject that appeals to me, and it costs me nothing. Obviously, this current book appealed to me because I am in the process of finding out ways to make the best of the years I have left. Recently I spent a good deal of time reading about cataract surgery and have learned plenty.

I spend a good deal of my daily activity reading, either online or hand-held books. I love the feel of a book in my hand, and as I was writing about the four activities above, I felt constrained by the fact that I had no actual book to refer to, as I own it electronically and had to keep reopening the device and scrolling back and forth looking for what I had previously read.

There's plenty more in the book that I found of interest, but mostly I find it comforting to learn of so many other people who have found joy and satisfaction in their later years. It's not much fun to think that one might not have the guidepost of fellow travelers on this journey, and every time I discover that I am not alone in my quest, it feels good. Plus, this author has a few other books for me to read.

Once I am finished with this book, though, I'll probably return to one of my spiritual books to give myself something to read before I fall asleep. They don't hold my interest nearly as well as this one has, so they last longer. I find myself happy to have something uplifting to ponder as I tuck myself into bed at night.

We've got another rainy period ahead, with lots of snow falling in the High Country, while we get the wet stuff down here. The skies will be grey and the days are short at this time of year, so finding a way to be comfortable with it all means that I won't be going outside to play much right now. It's all right, though, because I've got plenty to keep me occupied. I do hope that you will spend the next week doing something that gives you pleasure, too. For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful day with lots of good food to enjoy. We'll be having our traditional salmon dinner, compliments of my fisherman friend. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


Linda d said...

I’ll be picking that book up. I’m not quite ready to retire but it’s not to early to prepare.

Happy thanksgiving 🦃

Linda Reeder said...

I think I'm doing pretty well on those four elements of a healthy retirement, although being an introvert does limit my social contact. I am grateful for my on line friends.
When I read your title I though of the REI campaign for Black Friday - Go Outside! I certainly prefer that to joining the throngs looking for "bargains" in crowded big box stores.

Just back from five days away from home, we have lots to do inside and out. We have a huge mess to clean up outside from the huge windstorm we had just before we left, and inside I have to get ready to cook Thanksgiving dinner for my local family.

And now I need to get going. Is wielding a rake counted as playing? It can be if you love being outside like I do.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, As soon as I finish this comment I’m going to open up my Kindle and add Aging Well. Thank you for telling us about this book. I recently became a septuagenarian :-) and I’m looking for suggestions on how to make traveling through this part of life’s journey as enjoyable as possible. It is interesting that one of the suggestions in Aging Well is, after leaving the work life, to develop a social network to replace our work colleagues. I think I’ve done that largely via the blogosphere. I think you nailed it with this sentence: “It's not much fun to think that one might not have the guidepost of fellow travelers on this journey, and every time I discover that I am not alone in my quest, it feels good.” You are so right and Eye on the Edge is one guidepost I treasure. Thank you for sharing your thoughts each week. By the way, last week I was commenting on Eye at about the same time you were commenting on my Island and you mentioned how we were connected. I loved that comment and, honestly, it made my day! So, thanks again DJan. Have a great week ahead and be well! John

Rian said...

We spent a lot of time outside as children too... (with no TV's and no Internet to entertain us, outside was the fun option). My bike was my horse which I rode all over the neighborhood (on the sidewalk of course). I even had an old wheelbarrel that sat overturned in the backyard, that made a perfect airplane which I flew everywhere (in my imagination). Visiting my cousins on their farm was my favorite place to go in the summer where I could ride their horse (also mule and several cows), swim in the creek, and help plant crops. All this helped form my love for the outdoors and nature. So, even though I haven't read the book you mentioned - I agree that some things of our childhood carried over into our adult lives. (And I still love flying - tho no longer use the wheelbarrel).
And I find that those 4 guidelines overlap quite a bit as some of the classes I take actually fulfill all 4 of those needs...
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! And although I do love Salmon, we will be having the traditional turkey, bourbon sweet potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh green bean casserole, jalapeno pecan stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Elephant's Child said...

Lots of wisdom there.
Some I follow pretty well, and others are a work in progress.
I hope/expect never to stop learning though. Not least from the wonderful people (yourself definitely included) I have found in the blogosphere.
My social network is the gaping chasm for me. Something I need to work on.
I hope your week is full of wonders and joy.

Arkansas Patti said...

I think I am fairly solid on at least three of the goals and OK on the fourth. Blogging and the Internet have helped with two of them. I adore the ease of the Internet to provide us with instant knowledge and Blogging helps with my creativity. I totally love retirement.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Yes to everything yo mentioned..I will add take a nap every once in awhile:)

Red said...

Interesting post and it sounds like a book I should read. I do all the suggestions at different levels. It's nice to have an affirmation that I'm doing the right things. Have a great thanksgiving.

The Furry Gnome said...

That's great advice. I think I might look that book up. I'm certainly trying to do my best at those four things already.

Rita said...

Except for getting outside due to health reasons, I am doing okay with the rest. I certainly do remember being told to go out and play! We did watch Saturday morning cartoons and the whole family watched the one TV in the evenings, but we spent most of our time outside when we were kids--all seasons. If we were inside we were in our rooms or playing games in the basement--or I had a private fort in the rafters of the garage in high school.

The internet may change in December if Trump's people get their way. Won't be equal access anymore. I hope that doesn't happen! There are so many wonderful things about the internet.

Small City Scenes said...

I live for the outside. Anything to be outside. I also said that to my youngsters and even now as they are grown. And they are an outside bunch.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

That book states the way you already arrange your life. Your planning skills are applied from all you have found to inspire you and motivate you. Your research skills also are invaluable for we all must find our way forward and it works best when we feel infirmed. You know that to be the case. And I think gaving a person who shares your space and brings added support at many levels adds to a desire to carry on well.
Affirmation of what we try to do right adds to our feeling of pride.Keep sharing.