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••• The International Writers Magazine: Observations on ageing from Martin Green

Grey Matters
• Martin Green
...the danger of being overly busy is greatest at the beginning of retirement when you no longer have the structure of a working life

Grey active

More Misadventures in Technoland:  In my January Observations on this subject I noted how all-pervasive technogadgets, by which I mean everything from computers to smart phones to iPads to digital assistants like Alexa, have become in our senior citizen lives.  I noted further that this was all well and good but when one or more of these devises had a problem and stopped working we were in big trouble.  The technogods must have read this because last month not just one but all of our technodevices suddenly stopped working---no computer, no Pads, no Alexa, even our “smart” TV set could no longer access Netflix or Amazon.  Our world as we knew it had come to an end.

What to do?  After overcoming our panic we called our online provider and one of their tech people told me to unplug my wifi from the power strip I have and plug it into something else.  I did so and everything promptly sprang back to life.  The problem, it seemed, was simple---the particular plug on the power strip that the wifi was plugged into had gone dead.  When I used another plug the computer worked as usual.  One of the six plugs of a power strip suddenly going dead?   I would never have thought this would happen and, thinking about it, I don’t think it’s a natural phenomenom.   I suspect the techogods were behind it; either that or some other supernatural entity.  To be on the safe side, I now have another power strip, so if another plug on the old one goes dead I’m prepared.

Another LLA (Life’s Little Annoyance: the above qualifies as a LLA, or maybe a major annoyance, but I have to note another LLA that has been added to the many we already encounter, which includes calling any place with an automated phone system, i.e., everyone.    Now when we want to call a friend or some place with a local number we have to preface the number with 1-916.   I don’t know how many calls I’ve made up until now when I’ve suddenly realized I’ve forgotten the 1-916, have to hang up, and start dialing all over again.  Maybe in time it’ll become second nature to dial this prefix but it will always be a LLA. 

More on Aging:  I recently came across two newspaper articles on the same subject, which might be called “how busy should you be in retirement?”   The first, in the New York Times by Patricia Hampl, was headlined “Scrap Your To-Do List.”    The author writes that when she mentioned her “fevered to-do lists, the sometimes alarming blood pressure lists, the dark-night-of-the-soul insomnia” she was advised to take up meditation or yoga.   But, she says, meditation and yoga are just other items for a to-do list.   Rather than this, she turns to the idea of wasting time, looking out the window and letting the world float by.  She cites Walter Whitman, who wrote, “I loaf and invite my soul.  I lean and loaf at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.”

The second article, by David Ekerdt in the Wall Street Journal, is illustrated by a big picture of a list headed “Today’s Plan.”   Ekerdt writes:  “A busy retirement is absolutely fine.  But so is a not-so-busy retirement.”    Ekerdt’s article defends the latter, saying to let others “chatter about their bucket lists” and to have what he calls a “slow retirement,” which means a lifestyle that is more “considered and deliberate.”  When you come down to it these two articles are really saying nothing too new but something like that old cliché, stop and smell the roses.

I think the danger of being overly busy is greatest at the beginning of retirement when you no longer have the structure of a working life and face the prospect of all those non-working hours.  In my own case, I played tennis three or four times a week, took a creative writing class (yes, I passed), volunteered, and started writing for an alternative weekly paper (also volunteering, no pay).  Then I found I could write for Sacramento Bee Neighbors for pay.   Soon, with all of these activities, plus household tasks I’d put off until retiring (I probably had a to-do list) and travel, I realized I was busier than while working.    I cut back to make time to smell the roses. 

In later retirement years I think you cut back simply because you have less energy and because you have the inevitable aches and pains of old age, not to mention more  doctor visits and possibly hospital stays.   My aching knees don’t allow me to play tennis any more; Neighbors has gone out of business, but even if it hadn’t I wouldn’t be driving all over to do articles for them; my aches and pains have curtailed travel.   I’ve written here before that I think retirees benefit for having some goals and that I find it a good idea to try something new every year.  Even in deep old age and with a slow retirement I’d say it’s still good to have some goals in your life, even limited ones, and to devote some time to pursuing them.   Otherwise, why bother to get up in the morning?   Still, I’d agree with the theme of those two articles---we’re at a time in life when we don’t need a to-do lists and we don’t have to keep busy, buy busy.    So let’s not be afraid to loaf a little and look at that spear of grass.
smelling the roses © Martin Green May 2018
mgreensuncity at

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First, let me warn you, nothing much happens in this story.  Not that it couldn’t, as I’ll try to write something about how it feels to be a really old guy pushing 90.  When you’re at that advanced age, you can expect something to happen at any time --- a fall, a stroke, a heart attack. 

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