Thursday, March 22, 2018

Being Productive

I spent nearly half my life working for a major corporation.  Most of that time I was in management.  The most commonly heard word over the years was productivity.  At the end of the day it was all about the numbers.  Some numbers were too high while other numbers were too low.  Daily life was a juggling act to balance the numbers appropriately.  I actually had a reputation with many people as a numbers guy.  There was also talk about the need to develop people and help them to grow but the underlying intent was to make them more productive.  The image of Lucy and Ethel working on the candy wrapping assembly line is not too far from the truth.

Nearly three months into my retirement I still feel the need and pressure to be productive.  I need to read more books, do more meditation, watch more documentaries, play more music, take more walks, do more chores, write more "Daily Thoughts", etc.  It is difficult to break the cycle of a lifetime of constant pressure to be productive.  Most days my wife asks me "What did you do today"?

Theoretically, I believe in leisure.  There is even a school of thought that considers leisure as a sacred thing.  However, it is challenging to do nothing and still feel like you are doing something of value with your time.  I know that wasting time is not necessarily a bad thing but the reality is that so far in my retirement I have yet to spend a day doing nothing.  Would the world stop spinning if I didn't take a walk in the park?

I do not want to spend the rest of my life sitting in a chair and staring out my window.  I also do not want to spend the rest of my life driven to fill my day with endless activities.  At my age do I really need to feel a sense of accomplishment?  Are the primary tasks of my life not already accomplished?  I became an adult, got married, stayed married, started and finished a career, raised my children, and saved my money.  What else has to be done?  What else is truly necessary?  When do I get to finally relax?  Even though I am retired, I am not yet relaxed.

My Buddhist knowledge tells me I need to just let everything go and focus my attention on what is essential.  This is challenging because it is not always easy to determine who and what is truly essential.

Life demands movement.  Movement demands action.  Action usually involves a task.  A task is something that needs to be accomplished and accomplishments require some level of productivity.

I guess it all gets back to balance.  When I find the balance, I will feel the relaxation.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Greatest Mystery

The greatest mystery in the universe is women.  Even Stephen Hawking was stumped when asked about women. 

I don't have a particular issue or question at the moment but I do think about this from time to time. 

Are women really from Venus and men from Mars?

A male friend, who is gay, once told me he had a problem with women.  I said, "Dude, I'm straight and I have a problem with women".

Most of my career I mostly managed women.  It was like having twenty wives at a time.  With the men, nothing was ever a big deal.  With most of the women, everything was a big deal.

I was walking through a book store once and I saw a book lying on a table of discounted books.  One caught my eye and it was titled Everything I Know About Women.  It was written by a man.  I opened up the book and all the pages were blank.  I am not making this up.

Who knows what women want?  I have misunderstood or misinterpreted almost everything any woman I have ever know has ever said or done.  To be fair, maybe I am the problem.

In all honesty, I love women.  I prefer the company of women over men.  Women seem to like me.  However, I still don't understand women.  Even my dearly loved granddaughter is becoming more and more of a mystery to me.

I guess some mysteries are never meant to be solved.     

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Getting Out Of The House

I am trying to get out of the house at least once a day for some exercise. 

Admittedly, I tend to prefer passive activities like reading, listening to music, or watching films. 

This week I have begun watching Ken Burns massive documentary on the Vietnam war.  It is not something you can binge watch.  I can only watch one or two discs per day.  At times it is difficult viewing.  Although I was not in the military, Vietnam looms large in my consciousness.  In my youth there was still a draft and many of my generation, including me, protested the war.

I have many new books to read but cannot seem to muster the focus to read them.

As much as I love music, I do not blast rock and roll all day.  My early mornings are mostly silent.

Although today is the first day of Spring, and yesterday the temperature was in the low 60's, we now have a winter storm watch and may get as much as five inches of snow tonight.  We may also get zero inches of snow.  Weather is very unpredictable in my part of the world.

Most days the weather is overcast and cold.  On such days the park can be a lonely and bleak place.  This week I have been opting for walking at the Mall.  There are not many people there except the shop keepers and older people like me trying to get some exercise.  It is warm, bright, and seemingly full of life.  It lifts my mood.  If you want you can take a break at Starbucks or on one of many benches.  So far I have successfully walked past the Cinnabon store.

When I left the Mall I went to Barnes & Noble to look for a CD that I didn't find.  I decided to grab a bite to eat at the Starbucks within the store.  I ordered a panini sandwich.  My advice to Starbucks is to focus on coffee.  Sandwiches are not their strength.

My last stop was a pop in at Kroger for some trash bags and butter before gassing up the car.

This is my life now.  Try not to be too envious.

Time for a nap before I take a shower....

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Question Of Balance

I am now into my third month of retirement and finally getting used to it.  The first two months were difficult and included bouts of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and boredom.  It was also a time when I felt forgotten even if that really wasn't the case.  Occasional lunches with friends and a couple of visits to my former workplace have helped.  My visit to the monastery last week was a major boost to my mood, so much so that I may go out there once a month just to breathe.  I realize there are some parts of my pre-retirement past that I need to let go.  However, there are other aspects, particularly with people and relationships, where I am not ready to say farewell yet.  Some will fall away naturally but others I hope never do.

Earlier I felt bored so I went outside and sat in the sun.  It is a beautiful day and the sun was warm.  I meditated for about twenty minutes before feeling compelled to sit at my desk and write these thoughts.

When I was a working man I lived for the weekends.  Now I dislike them.  The weekends now throw off all sense of balance and routine.  My wife has been home for three days but she is where I used to be and I am no longer there.  My granddaughter hasn't been with us this weekend either.  She is at my house 99% of the time on weekends and brings energy and life...sometimes too my life.  There's nothing like a teenager to keep two old people alive.  Monday through Friday is now my personal weekend.  I am slowly developing a routine for myself.  I learned a long time ago that I need some routine and structure in my life in order to have a sense of balance.  This is why I didn't take advantage of working at home when I was still in the rat race of work.  If I had to work, I needed the discipline and structure of having to go into the office.  It sometimes felt like a prison but I needed it while I was a working man.  Part of my retirement struggle has been due to the lack of a disciplined and structured life.

Tomorrow is a new week and aside from a couple of scheduled lunches my plate is mostly empty.  This week I want to be more disciplined about getting out of the house.  I have yet to make it to the park five days in a row.  If it rains I will strive to make myself go to the Mall to walk.  It has become very evident to me that when I sit around too much I feel physically bad and I often think myself into depression.  The more active I am the better I feel physically and mentally.  I think I will soon seriously consider some volunteer opportunities.  However, I admit I have a fear of becoming overly committed to something.  I am free for the first time in my adult life and I can't go back to a life of no freedom.

Once again the word is balance.

On a side note, this weekend I received my DNA results from  I always thought I was mostly of an Irish background but it turns out that my DNA is 69% British, 10% Western European, 8% Irish/Scottish/Welsh and the rest from a variety of regions.  I am not sure what I think about all of this yet.  It is another piece of the puzzle that is my identity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Just People Trying To Get Through The Day

Yesterday on my way to the monastery I visited Small Town, USA.  All small towns look the same to me.  I stopped at a fast food restaurant for some breakfast.  My guess is that I was the only person in the restaurant who didn't vote for Donald Trump.  Every man in the restaurant looked like a "good ole boy".  They were all wearing baseball hats.  I was the only man wearing a knitted, multi-colored hat that I bought at Earthbound.  No one could see my long hair or the Buddhist medallion I was wearing.  My progressive, liberal views were not on display but I was definitely feeling like an outsider.

I started up a conversation with a man standing next to me.  We disclosed that we were both retired.  He told me that he retired from General Electric when he was 55 years old.  He asked about my retirement so I told him I had retired after 32 years with Humana.  He responded, "Humana?  You must have had one of them good jobs".  I know he assumed I was some kind of executive or management person.  He had a pension.  I have a 401K.

If I had "one of them good jobs", why did this man get to retire at the relatively young age of 55 and I had to work until I was 66 years old?

The conversation was actually kind of enjoyable.  I know that if we got into politics we would probably have many disagreements.  Yesterday, however, we were just two retired guys trying to get some breakfast and hoping we got our senior citizen discount.

It is my experience that whenever I have random and unplanned conversations with other human beings, we are just people trying to get through the day.  America is a very divided country right now.  This divide is maintained because leaders on both sides of the divide are constantly stirring the pot of hatred and mistrust.  I am not discounting the reality that there are some serious issues in our culture and society.  However, the temperature of our discourses could be lowered significantly if we just shared a biscuit and a cup of coffee and talked to one another.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Visit To The Monastery

Early this morning I left Louisville in darkness and drove into the light.  The morning rush hour on I-65 was very intense as I left downtown.  An accident in the northbound lane had traffic backed up for many miles.  Thankfully, I was driving south.  Everyone was in a hurry to get somewhere.  I was in a hurry to get nowhere.  Soon I got off at the Bardstown exit and had a more enjoyable drive.  When I got to Bardstown I stopped for some breakfast and had a conversation with another retiree about how glad we were not to be in charge of baking the morning biscuits at Hardee's.  As we talked the place was just buzzing with activity.  I was happy to get back into my car to continue my solitary drive to the monastery.  The countryside was beautiful since much of it was still covered in a light snowfall.

When I got to the monastery the sun was fully risen and the day was cold.  The monastery retreat house is closed for renovation so there were virtually no people anywhere.  Later in the morning while I was meditating in the church I did see Brother Luke who seemed to be preparing for the next prayer service.  He is the primary organist at the monastery.

After visiting the gravesite of my dear friend, Dennis, I decided to take a walk to the site of the old and now demolished cow barn.  When I was a novice monk at the monastery the cow barn was a place of great activity.  At that time the monastery had a very large herd of Holstein milking cows.  The milk was used to make the famous Trappist cheese.  Almost every afternoon one of my jobs was to feed the cows.  I did this with Brother Alban, Brother Columban, and the very dear Brother Ferdinand.  Brother Ferdinand was an older and very holy monk that kind of took me under his wing.  I can still remember his slight embarrassment when I asked him to explain to me...a city boy...the difference between a cow and a heifer.

After finishing my walk I visited the gift shop.  I walked out with a new coffee mug, three jars of Trappist jelly, two bars of French soap, and a book on the life of Dom James Fox, a former abbot and a towering figure in the story of Thomas Merton.  When I was in the monastery, Dom James was living in a hermitage up in the knobs.  I was fortunate to visit him there a few times when Brother Norbert will drive there on Sunday mornings to bring Dom James to the monastery for Sunday mass and a good meal.  I also remember one private one on one meeting with him.  Dom James was a big part of the history of Gethsemani.

I had a pleasant drive home on the scenic route.  However, at one point my GPS said I was driving in the middle of a field when I know I was on a highway!

Now I am home and it is time for a nap...

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Inner Journey

For all it's ups and downs so far, retirement has been a reflective time.  Much of my time has been spent ruminating on the question "Who am I now"?  Whatever purpose I had in the workplace is gone now.  What is my new purpose?

In the book How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie Zelinski  I recently read "retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you".  This doesn't necessarily mean beauty to be found in some faraway land.  It could be the beauty of your own neighborhood which you may not have noticed when you were living a busier and more frantic life.

Some driven types go from the busyness of a career to the busyness of new activities in retirement.  They hardly miss a beat.  Others go from a full schedule to a life of relative emptiness as the phones stop ringing and the emails stop flowing.

"Happiness is not a matter events; it depends on the tides of the mind".
-Alice Meynell

I also like this bit of wisdom from Seneca.

"The gradually declining years are among the sweetest in a man's life".

I am not sure I have found this sweetness yet but I look forward to finding it.

A man named Howard Salzman says, "Retirement is a time to make the inner journey".

I think one of the dangers of retirement is to think you need to retire in the same manner as every other retired person.  Retirement, like all of life, is very personal.  Thomas Merton, in the last public appearance he made, at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, said, "It's time for everyone to stand on their own two feet".  In other words, you can't always depend on other people or the "system" to support you.  Retirement is a time to discover who you were meant to be now that what you did has come to an end.  Most of us spend much of our lives thinking our identity is based on what we do, not on who we are.

The inner journey is a journey of self-discovery and letting go.  Some people and things are relatively easy to let go.  Others are more painful.

"The greater part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances.
-Martha Washington

Friday, March 09, 2018

Who And What Gets Our Attention?

We should not expect anything from anyone.  Most people, including me, are just trying to get through the day.  Expectations are planned disappointments.  I am not saying that all people are undependable.  Everyone is making choices based on what is important to them.  We all have only 24 hours a day.  Who and what is important to us can be determined by how much time we give them or it.  The value of our time is determined by who and what gets our attention.  If someone or something is important to me, I will find time for them or it.  Everyone and everything cannot be important to me.  There is simply not enough time for everyone and everything.  Life must be prioritized.  If you want another person in your life but you have to beg for their attention, it is simply not going to happen.  You also cannot do everything available in the world.  There are simply not enough hours in the day or years in a lifetime.  Each of us has a slightly different, or possibly a radically different, view of life and who and what is important to us.  We live our lives based on how we see life and who or what is important to us.  It could be our work or our families.  It could our relationships or the hobbies we pursue.  It could be travel or quality time at home.  Of course, all quality time is in the eye of the beholder.  Someone else's quality time might be my hell.  Whoever we are, we will not be a high priority on everyone else's list.  Sometimes responsibilities take much of our time and we cannot pursue activities of importance to us.  We want to own our time but too often our time owns us.  The bottom line is that who or what gets your attention determines who and what is really important to you. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Filling Up Your Time

Yesterday, while sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office, I started up a casual conversation with a stranger.  I mentioned I was a recent retiree and he told me that he was too.  He was also a former employee of Humana and a lifer like me.  It turned out that our paths had probably crossed unknowingly and that we knew many of the same people.  On his way out of the waiting room he said, "I have some retirement advice for you.  Don't be too quick to fill up your time.  It will fill up for you".  

Over the years whenever I have talked to someone who was retired, whether they wanted to be or not, most of them told me that in retirement they were busier than ever.  I guess their time filled up for them.

In recent days I am feeling more comfortable with retirement.  I am calm and peaceful.  This may not be a direct result of retirement.  I think it is more a result of the renewed practice of meditation.  At least one a day, and usually twice a day, I sit for twenty minutes and simply breathe.  My walks in the park enjoying nature also help.  I am more relaxed, calmer, and less prone to anxiety and depression.  I guess my psyche is settling down after nearly two months of living a simpler life.

Slowly my days are finding a balance between solitude, activity, and taking care of daily chores.  Occasionally I have lunch with a friend.  The downtime does not feel as overwhelming as it initially felt.  I stretch things out so that no one day is nonstop activity.  The picture above is not recent but it does reflect the ease I am starting to feel in my life.  I expect nothing and strive to appreciate everything as it is.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Money Isn't Everything

Today I spent two hours crunching numbers and making decisions with my financial consultant.

I am not a wealthy person by any stretch of the imagination but I am a long way from poor.  When I was working I saved as much money as I could, I paid off my home, and I have no debt other than my monthly expenses.  I feel lucky that I was able to retire when the opportunity presented itself.  However, there is more to life and retirement than money although financial planning and saving are essential.  If you are nearing retirement, or perhaps recently retired, there are other things you need to think about besides money.  In retrospect it seems like all I ever heard about retirement while I was working was to prepare yourself financially.  As I stated, I did that to the best of my ability.  What I did not prepare for adequately was the loss of friends, community, and purpose.  I suddenly found myself without these things and I felt kind of lost.  Two months into retirement I am still wandering in the desert looking for the promised land of retirement happiness and a sense of direction.

Not being what I would call a social butterfly, most of my social interactions and friendships were in the workplace.  Many of these interactions were superficial and most people were acquaintances instead of true friends.  However, even those I felt closer to now seem far away and distant since the shared experience of getting through the workday no longer exists.  I get it.  I have not had a single thought about many of my former co-workers.  Why would I think everyone left in the workplace would think about me every day?

At a recent lunch with two friends one asked me, "Don't you need to feel part of a community"?  Once again, the workplace filled my need to feel part of a community.  I am not part of a faith community or any civic organization.  Up until now the daily workplace experience met those needs so I was happy to come home each day to my solitude to recharge and rest.  I was not out every night doing volunteer work at the church or any other place.

In the workplace I was a leader and my sense of purpose was to minister to the needs of co-workers and people who were part of my team.  I always saw leadership as me not being someone's boss but rather me as someone who saw my work as a ministry to people.  I am no longer a leader in the workplace and I no longer have a team of people reporting to me with a wide variety of needs.  In other words, there's lot of office ministry no longer being done, at least not by me.

Save your money for your old age and retirement but also consider how these other needs will be met.  If you don't you will have days like I have been having where you are lonely, a little depressed, and wondering what you should now be doing with your life to give it a sense of purpose and meaning.     

Friday, March 02, 2018

The Love Of Music

There were several times yesterday when music generated an emotional reaction from me.  The songs were not related to a specific time, feeling, person, or event.  They were just songs that caused an unexpected emotional response.  Music often stirs up memories.  As I write this I am listening to a recording of one of the best concerts I ever saw with Neil Young & Crazy Horse from the early 90's.  I cannot listen to this concert without thinking of that time in my life and the people who attended the show with me.  It also reminds this soon to be 67 year old hippie that I was a young fortysomething at that time.  I was still dangerous.

I received my first transistor radio in the early 1960's.  In those days no one had the fancy and sometimes expensive ear buds of today.  Most music was heard in mono so you only had one ear plug.  I would go to sleep at night listening to AM radio and the hits of the day.  If my friends and I spent the night together on a Friday night we always listened to the weekly Top 40 countdown.  It was on one such night that I heard the Beatles for the first time.

Around this same time period the older, teenage sister of one of my childhood friends took us to my first concert.  It was the original Beach Boys and they were a huge act at the time.  When they came out on stage with their matching outfits and guitars I was hooked for life.  It began a lifetime of attending live concert events that continues to this day, though I admit it doesn't happen as frequently as it used to happen.  A few bands have eluded me but over the years I have seen most of the greatest musical acts of my generation including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Doors.  The bands I have seen the most are the Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, Moody Blues, and Pink Floyd.  There were also many other artists and bands I saw multiple times.

All in all, music has been the best and most reliable friend I ever had.  Music has been there for me in good times and bad.  If I am sad, it can make me happy.  If I am happy, it can make me happier.  Sometimes it can be an out of body experience that transcends time and space.  As David Crosby once sang, "Music Is Love".

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Walking On Sunshine

Driving home this morning, after taking my granddaughter to school and my wife to work, I suddenly felt a lightness of being that I haven't felt since I retired.  It was like walking on sunshine.

It was actually dark, overcast, and raining...

It helped that one of my favorite songs was playing on the radio.  It's called "Scarlet Begonias" and it's by the Grateful Dead, who are one of my favorite bands of all time.  It is a song that you cannot listen to and be sad.  It has wonderful lyrics and a beat that makes even me want to dance.

I ain't often right but I've never been wrong, it seldom turns out the way it does in the song.  Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.  The wind in the willows played tea for two, the sky was yellow and the sun was blue.  Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand, everybody was playing in the Heart of Gold band...

Yesterday I visited my former workplace for the first time since I retired.  Since my last day of work was kind of a disaster because of bad weather and the office being closed, I offered to come in to clarify a few things and tie up some loose ends.  I quickly realized that I did not miss work at all.  When I left I was happy to leave the problems behind.  What I did realize is that any sadness I felt about retiring was because of people.  My former co-workers seemed genuinely happy to see me.  I was feeling the love.  Most people said I looked well rested and stress free.  Someone I almost fired even gave me a hug.  I had lunch with my former boss and others who now are just friends.  Some people who saw me in the office were shocked that I was there.  I told them I wasn't real but that I was a hologram installed by Humana to improve morale.  Although I may go back for occasional visits, I think I can let work go.  It is the relationships I want to maintain.   

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Attention To The Universe!

The last time I visited my mother in the nursing home while she was still coherent I arrived while she was getting some physical therapy.  I waited for her to finish.  When the therapist brought her out in a wheel chair I followed behind them.  The therapist said, "Mrs. Brown, you have a visitor".  I said, "Hello, mom, how are you today"?  She replied, "This is my retired son".  I think I am the first person in my family to retire since my father retired 22 years before his death 9 years ago.  At some point during my visit with my mother she asked, "What are you going to do with yourself?  You can only read so many books".  Boy, did she hit the nail on the head!  Reading and listening to music were two of my favorite activities when I didn't have much time to do them.  Now that I have endless hours to do both, I have an attention span of about five minutes.  Sometimes I walk around my own home as though I were lost.  That is usually when I head to the park.  Physical activity does help my often negative mood.

I need to figure out what I can do with my time that doesn't feel like a job.  One of my fellow retirees recently said to me, "I want to volunteer at the soup kitchen but not every day"!  Another friend who is still working, and who is a former co-worker, sent me an email and said, "You have a passion for leading and teaching.  It's a natural, God given talent.  Stop focusing on the retired Michael and focus on the teaching Michael and I think your journey will open itself to you". 😊

My friend makes a very good point.  Whatever opens itself up to me is not something I will find at home.

Attention to the Universe!  I am listening.  My ears and heart are on high alert.  Point me in the right direction for Phase Two of my life.  Sometimes you have to take a step before you see the path.  At this moment I am not sure what step one is but I will try to figure it out if it doesn't reveal itself to me.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Need For Authentic Friendships

I have not been myself lately.  The change is apparent to me so I have been wondering what is happening.   Retirement has been a major lifestyle change for me and I don't need to tell my regular readers that it has not been going smoothly.  I have been kind of wandering around without a sense of direction. Some friends have reached out to me with lunch invitations, book suggestions, and even a Zig Ziglar YouTube video.  I am sure other friends are tired of me talking about it but I can't seem to get motivated or over the hump.  I have never been an over-achiever and some would question my assertiveness, so I am struggling over what steps I need to take.  One friend counseled "baby steps".  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, right?  Anyway, I decided to research how I have been feeling since I retired.  I am definitely not in a vacation frame of mind.  I've come to the conclusion that I am depressed.  Here is how I have been feelings for weeks.
  • A depressed mood most of the day (feeling sad, empty, emotional, etc.)
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed (music, reading)
  • Difficulty sleeping, being tired, waking up throughout the night, etc.
  • Overthinking.
  • Restlessness, anxiety, with occasional feelings of panic.
  • Feeling lost and without direction.
  • Lonely and isolated.
I share this, not to get attention, but to let other people who may feel like me know they are not alone.

These feelings are a new experience for me.  Yes, I have often felt melancholy but I think that is part of my personality, i.e., the Dreamer and Romantic type.  The truth is that I have always been a strong person.  Other people come to me with their problems.  I am almost never the guy with a problem.  

Friends have given me two copies of a book called How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie Zelinski.  I had started reading it before I retired but never finished it.  Upon receiving a friend's concerned email, and the recommendation of the book, I once again picked it up.  I had left off right before a chapter on the importance of friendship.  I realize now that I have not done a very good job of having the kind of friendships that would be needed in a retired life.  With all due respect, spouses are not always our best friends.  Many spouses are complete opposites and you don't necessarily have a lot in common.  Additionally, many people retire while their spouse or significant other continues to work.  Like many people, most of my friendships were in the workplace and not all of them were true friendships.  Most were acquaintances.  My career was managing other people all day so at the end of a typical workday the last thing I wanted was to be with a bunch of people.  I am not involved in a church or other organization, sports don't interest me, and I do like and need some time alone.  The problem is that now I have too much solitude and no people that make me want to be alone.  It's a new and weird lack of balance in my life  The book says all of us need friendships that aren't work related.  I have few of those and now I realize it.  Going forward I need to work on renewing friendships as well as creating new ones with people I like, who have something in common, and who can help make my new life something to enjoy.

I am deeply appreciative of those of you who have reached out to me with concern or advice in recent weeks.

Next week I have having lunch with two faithful friends and I am even going into the office to meet with my former boss.  Because of the way my career ended on a day with a winter storm and a closed office we never had professional or personal closure.  She wants to "pick my brain".  I am not telling anyone that I am coming in so no one will know unless they read this blog.  We'll see how it goes. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mixed Emotions

A family member told me that one of my recent blogs was kind of sad and pathetic.  I am sure this is because I have not been writing much about the joys of retirement.  I have written more about the struggle I am having making this transition.  I have already admitted that I didn't see this challenge coming.  I truly thought it would be easier.  As long as I have been writing publically I have always tried to be honest about whatever I am feeling.  What I have been feeling in recent weeks is mixed emotions.  As someone who thinks too much and who analyses my life endlessly, I have spent much time trying to figure out why this has been so difficult for me.  I wouldn't say I am going through the Five Stages Of Grief but I think I am experiencing a sense of loss.  My former life, for better or worse, was my life for a very long time.  It was a life style.  To be honest, I haven't thought one minute about the actual work I did.  I have thought a lot about the people I worked with every day.  Some of them were people I interacted with for many years but were not necessarily close friends.  A few had become close friends.  I know what some of you are thinking.  They can still be my friends.  That is true but when you lose sharing a common experience, work friendships can be difficult to maintain.  There is also the reality of how relationships are perceived by individuals.  The value of a relationship can be seen differently by the people in the relationship.  I may have valued some relationships more than other people valued them.  If someone valued me, what was the reason?  Was it my role in the workplace or me as a person?  A big part of my life has slipped away from me and my world has gotten much smaller.  My former life may have been more important to me than I realized.

Having said all of this....

In approximately one month I will be 67 years old.  I never expected to work until I dropped dead.  If I hadn't retired when I did it wouldn't have been too much longer anyway.  It is a life changing event.  It is now late winter.  I am reminded that when the season is about to change it is never a smooth transition.  Earlier this week it was sunny and 80 degrees. The next day it was in the 40's with heavy rain and now my city is experiencing flooding.  It might be spring one day and winter the next day.  It could still snow again before it is all over.

Writing is how I process my life and my feelings.  Maybe some days I am sad and pathetic.  I am a human being too.  The famous baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it".  At this stage of my life I was at a fork in the road so I took it.  Maybe I am a little lost.  Maybe I took the wrong fork.  Who knows?  Either way, some bridges are burned so I must find my way ahead.  There is another saying that goes something like, "If you can't find the path, make a new one".

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A New Day

I apologize to any of my readers who read my last blog and wondered if they should contact my mental health provider for an immediate intervention.  It was an honest and truthful blog.  There are aspects of transitioning from being a full time worker to a full time retiree that I find challenging.  It is challenging to jump from a lifetime of daily 9-5 office life with hundreds of other people in the same rat race to a life of no major responsibilities all alone in your home.  OK, I do take care of all the laundry and grocery shopping now.  If my wife and I cook, I do the cooking.

Don't feel too sorry for me.  In a little while I will be going to the Post Office to mail in my passport renewal application so I can go on a cruise to the Grand Cayman Islands and Cozumel.  Now you can hate me for more than the fact that I no longer have to work unless I get really, really bored and I do it for fun or as a service to the world community.  I actually have some thoughts about volunteering but I have no acted on them yet.  All in due time.

Some of you know me personally and some only by my writing.  Let me assure everyone that I am fine.  I have received emails, Facebook messages, and other communications concerned with my well-being.  I have also received great feedback and suggestions from other retirees.

I will find my way in this brave, new world.  I have nowhere to go in particular and the rest of my life to get there.  Part of my personal challenge is that I tend to be a solitary and withdrawn person so it takes extra effort on my part to put myself "out there".  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  Many see me as a teacher but now I am a student.

 I love to hear from people whether I know you personally or not.  Some of my current friends are people I have never met.  These friendships began when people contacted me because they liked something I wrote.  I try to respond to as many people as I can.

I am a little behind schedule this morning.  It's time to be still and do my morning meditation.

I wish peace and good things for all of you. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Some Thoughts On My Retirement

This past Friday I had lunch with a former co-worker.  In the course of our conversation she told me that another co-worker remarked that my absence from the workplace felt like a death.  Someone I was very close to would stand up to talk to me over the wall that separated us and then realize I wasn't there.  It almost made me cry to hear this.  I told my friend that my retirement kind of felt like a death on my end too.  Tomorrow I begin my sixth week of retirement and I must admit I am starting to struggle with it to the point of having some anxiety over it.  I do think I needed to get away from the work environment.  If I had my way I would not have left it completely.  I would have just reduced the number of hours I spent at work.  I was burned out after so many years of being a leader.  Although there were good things about the work environment there was also a lot of pettiness and what I call corporate BS.  However, I am starting to realize how much the social aspect of working in an office contributed to my well-being.  I was a well liked and popular person.  Even if some aspects of the work experience were driving me crazy, most of my co-workers enjoyed my presence.  I apparently did not realize how much I enjoyed their presence or how important the social aspect of work was to me.

I must admit that I am feeling lonely, a little forgotten, and completely lacking in purpose.  There was once a movie I really liked with Bruce Willis called "The Sixth Sense".  It was basically the story of a man who dies but he didn't realize it for a long time.  He thought he was living but was actually invisible to everyone else.  They were simply going about their lives and he was no longer a part of those lives.  Without sounding too dramatic I am starting to feel like this man.  All my former co-workers, and even my own family, are still living the lives they were living before I retired.  I, on the other hand, feel like the invisible man.  Even when I go to the park or to a store I feel like no one sees me.  I am completely alone a great deal of the time.  As an extreme introvert it is difficult for me to join groups and make new friends.  I have never been much of a group person and always preferred more one on one relationships.

I need to make some changes but am not yet sure what these changes need to be.  I need a reason to get out of bed besides taking my wife to work.

Admittedly, it is not all doom and gloom.  I do love my early mornings at home when I can have some quality alone time.  The struggles seem to begin with what we used to call in the monastery the "noonday devil".  I may feel bored and a little sorry for myself.  Then I start thinking too much and these thoughts often turn to anxiety when I wonder, "Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life"?

Since my life seems to have come to a screeching halt, I do have a better understanding of other people's sadness and why many old people get tired of living.  Whether you work or not, you need other human relationships, a sense of purpose, and something to do that makes you happy.  I need to restore some balance in my life.  It has gotten lopsided.           

Thursday, February 15, 2018


I read two quotes this morning that made me think about relationships.

"Don't force someone to make time for you.  If they really want to, they will".

"Rule #1:  Never expect anything from anybody".

I recently read that the number one reason relationships end is due to unmet expectations.

Life seems to be a Zen koan.  It doesn't work well or make you happy unless your expectations are met, yet we are told to have no expectations.  Another bit of wisdom I once came upon said that expectations are nothing but planned disappointments.

In my old age I am starting to think I am not very good at relationships with anyone.  Most people seem to like me and some even think I am more than I am.  However, I am a man with no intimate relationships of any kind.  I am not sure if it is that I don't put enough effort into my relationships or if I expect too much from relationships.  People I want to be in my life don't always seem to want me in their life on an equal basis.  Others want more from me than I am able to give or want to give.  I generally have no interest in shallow and superficial relationships.  The world is full of casual acquaintances.  Kindred spirits are what I seek and need.

I find relationships exhausting.  This may be why I love my solitude.  Solitude is easy for me.  Too often when I attempted relationships with people, I felt like I did all the work.  Some would say that all relationships are work.  However, if they feel like nothing but work, they won't last for long or they will make you chronically unhappy.

Of course, we all have needs and wants, many of which we cannot even articulate because we don't have the words.  I've always had a fear of being or seeming needy.  The fact that I often feel inadequate or lacking doesn't help.  I think many people probably feel this way.  Perhaps part of the problem is our difficulty communicating our needs and desires.  None of us like to appear vulnerable or weak.  We don't like to admit our loneliness.  We all want to not only be loved by others but, more importantly, we all need to feel loved and valued by others.

Relationships!  You can't live with them but you also can't live without them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nervous Breakdown

Today started out well enough or at least normal.  I took my wife to work, came home and did my morning meditation, and then watched a video of the Dalai Lama from his visit to Louisville in 2013.

A little while ago I suddenly felt like I was having a nervous breakdown so I went to the park for a walk.  The park was cold, dreary, and lonely.  I saw one or two other people but mostly it was just the ducks, geese, and me.

When I got home there was a letter in my mail box encouraging me to plan my cremation now in order to beat future price increases.

What set off my momentary breakdown?  I can't find my passport.  In 2005 I went to France and had to get a passport for the first time.  I haven't needed it since so I stashed it somewhere and now I can't find it.  I think I gave it to my wife a couple of years ago when we were thinking of going to Mexico.  However, she won't own up to that so today I once again looked for it.  I have hundreds of books, containers full of pictures from my entire life, boxes of letters I have received over the years, and a number of hand written journals.  In other words I have personal possessions from my entire life stashed in closets, drawers, and possibly within the pages of books.  I seem to have everything except my passport.  I tell myself that all geniuses have clutter.  Someday when my granddaughter or someone else writes my biography they will appreciate all this documentation.

Today it has been one month since I retired.  The time has flown by.  I feel like I should be more productive but as I look around, the house seems trashed and I don't have the energy to do anything about it.  I really want to take a nap.  I would also like the sun to shine and the temperature to warm up.  I don't recommend retiring in the dead of winter.  My original plan was to do it in the spring.

I know today's anxiety will pass.  I didn't sleep well last night and this may all be due to that.  I think I will take that nap now....

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Struggles Of Life

As I read from the journals of Thomas Merton I am reminded of his daily struggles as he lived his life.  I began reading the books of Thomas Merton when I was 19 years old.  Even as a young man I quickly felt a connection with him and his words seemed to often reflect my own feelings.  In later years I realized we had similar personalities and that many of his struggles were also my struggles.

We all struggle although some people are unaware of their own struggles.  They plow through life and don't reflect too much on their experience.  Those of us who are more introspective types often tie ourselves up in knots as we constantly ruminate on the meaning, or lack of meaning, in our lives.  The writings of Richard Rohr have taught me that whoever and whatever we are only gets deeper and more intense as we get older.  Today I am more who I am than I was ten years ago.  Unfortunately this also means that many of my insecurities are more ingrained.

Much of my life I thought I was "normal" until I realized there was no such thing as normal.  Although I have never thought I was better than anyone else, I have always felt different than most other people.  Over time I've come to believe and understand that all lives are complex even if an individual doesn't realize or accept their own complexity.

What are my struggles?  Like Merton I've always had a longing for the "other".  On a spiritual level I suppose this is a longing for God.  It could also be a longing for meaning.  As I have gotten older the idea of God has gotten very blurry for me.  Who or what is God?  I no longer know.  The pious spirituality of my childhood doesn't work for me anymore.  Another struggle is that something about me seems lacking.  I never feel as though I am enough as I am.  Why have I not been more successful in life?  I am not talking about job titles or paychecks.  For me true success is about happiness, contentment, and feeling valued and loved by others.  I probably should feel all of these things but most days I simply don't.  I also have a fear of being ordinary and not making a difference.  I have a strong need to matter and not be taken for granted.  In addition, retirement has added a fear of being forgotten.  All of this makes me think I am much more insecure that I ever thought.  I have always thought I was a strong person because I have been able to deal with the true challenges in my life and I've had patience with life's inconveniences.  I get impatient with people who are emotionally fragile and unable to deal with things.

In spite of my struggles I do have the capacity to recognize those Zen moments where life is perfect, if only for a brief time.  We all sometimes want to scream, as depicted in the famous Edvark Munch painting shown above.  I think much of the challenge of dealing with our personal struggles is because they are usually invisible to other people.  How we appear to others on the outside is not always how we really are on the inside.        

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Gift Of Time

Most of my life time seemed like the enemy.  I lived by the clock.  It seemed every decision I made was based on what time it was.  Time often held me prisoner.  In these early days of my retirement time now seems like a gift.  I haven't worn my watch since I stopped working.  Many have used the analogy that time is like a river.  If this is true then I am now swimming with the current.  Most of my life I felt as though I was swimming against the current.  Instead of feeling constricted by time I now feel as though I am living in the spaciousness of time.  

I now have time to breathe.  I now have sacred leisure.  My meditation practice is back on track.  Books are getting read.  Music is being listened to and enjoyed.  Walks are being taken.  Chores are getting completed without being stressed out or exhausted.  I now can sit in coffee shops and visit bookstores.  This morning I was in awe of a beautiful sunrise.

My newfound gift of time also includes the gift of solitude.  Most of my days I am alone.  I can think and be more contemplative.  I sometimes feel as though I am back in the monastery.  More than ever I am living the kind of life I want and need.

I am happy to be back into writing on a daily basis.  While still working I was getting to a point where I was brain dead and only had the energy to maintain basic life support functions.  Now I find myself with more and more ideas that I can write about.  I hope there are people who enjoy what I write, or who can identify with the thoughts I am sharing.  I love it when people enjoy my writing.  Of course, I write as much for myself as for other people.  Writing is how I process my thoughts and feelings.  I can be more honest and open now though not as honest and open as I would sometimes like to be.

My thanks to Salvador Dali for the painting called "The Persistence Of Memory".  It conveys the idea for me of time melting away.  It seems ironic to me that as the days of my life are closer to the end than to the beginning, the days of my life seem more like a gift. 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Reclining Buddha

One of my favorite Thomas Merton reflections comes from The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton.  It recounts his visit to the reclining Buddha located in what was then called Polonnaruwa, Ceylon.  This is also one of my favorite images of Buddha.

Merton writes in his journal.....

"I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand.  Then the silence of the extraordinary faces.  The great faces.  The great smiles.  Huge and yet subtle.  Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional resignation but of Madhyamike, of sumyata, that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything...without refutation...without establishing some other argument.

Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious".  

Isn't this what we all want to experience?  As we go through our lives trying to make sense of the world and our own experience of life, don't we deeply long for the experience of being "jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things"?  Is there ever a point in life when we know the truth of things?  Is there ever a point where we have an inner clearness and clarity and life makes sense?

My entire life has felt like I have been doing nothing but stumbling along whatever path I am on.  In many ways I've had a good life and some wonderful experiences.  However, I would be lying to myself and to you if I said my own life made sense to me.  I have more that I need or want of many things and little of what I want or need in other things.  I have tried to be content but often feel I have just settled for what is.  Life at 66 doesn't make any more sense than it did at 26.  Perhaps some day before I leave the planet I will experience a "Great Awakening" that will open my eyes, my mind, and my heart and I will be "jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things".   

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Now having the time to pursue some of my interests, I am reminded how much I enjoy reading from the journals of Thomas Merton.  My interest in Merton began as a young man when I was living in a Franciscan community in 1970.  One of the friars gave me a copy of Merton's The Sign Of Jonas.  It was the first Thomas Merton book I ever read.  It was a journal of approximately five years in Merton's life that also described in vivid detail the life of the monastery in the late 1940's and early 1950's.  It began for me a life long love affair with monastic life, a life that I still find attractive 45 years after leaving it.  The Sign Of Jonas was the reason I left the Franciscan community and entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, the same monastery where Merton lived and wrote The Sign Of Jonas.

These days I am also reminded that I like classical music.  As I write these notes Beethoven's "Brandenburg Concerto's" plays in the background.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am loving these early morning hours that retirement allows me to have.  I have always been a morning person, even when I was working full time.  Morning's have always seemed sacred to me.  I am still getting up early and once I am alone the first thing I do is sit in silence for 20 minutes.  I am usually holding my favorite coffee mug and the hot coffee warms my hands.  My meditation is followed by some serious reading and often some classical music in the background.  Later in the day when I might be feeling a little sluggish, I will listen to some rock and roll or go to the park for a walk.  At some point in the afternoon I try to get in another meditation session.  Yesterday I attended an introduction to meditation session at the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center.  They are offering a 10 week course that I am considering.

As soon as Beethoven is finished I need to do some chores.  Each day I try to do something that might be considered constructive.  I am resistant to retiring from one employer to become an employee of my wife but my new freedom does make it easier to do some chores that previously needed to be done...or not done...around my full time work schedule.

Even with this gift of time that retirement has given me, the hours and the days seem to be flying by at an alarming rate.  The perception that time seems to increase in speed the older you get is very real. My meditation is centered on the practice of mindfulness.  Among other benefits, mindfulness can help to slow down time.  Being in the moment seems to make the moment last.  Like Maxwell House coffee, I want each moment of my life to be "good to the last drop".

Thursday, February 01, 2018


In approximately two months I will be 67 years old.  I have the body to prove it.  Besides the normal wear and tear, I was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years old and I've suffered with significant intestinal issues most of my adult life.  I rarely get sick but I do feel the aches and pains of aging.  If my body could be sold, you could probably get it for 50% off at a scratch and dent sale.  I lean towards passive activities like reading, listening to music, watching films, and being what some people call a "couch potato".  I was an active child who played sports and rode many miles on my bicycle but as I got older I grew more sedentary.  Working in an office for over 30 years did not help.  When I received my diabetes diagnoses I began to take my health more seriously.  I watched my diet, lost a lot of weight, and tried to walk as much as I could.  When I say walk, I do not mean hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I mean walking around my office, the streets of downtown, and now a local park.  My walks are not strenuous but I am out of my chair and moving.

I happened upon a small book by Henry David Thoreau called Walking.  My idea of a walk and Thoreau's idea of a walk are two different things.

"If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again, if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk".

I am just a recently retired man with some time on his hands who wants to take a walk in the park every day in order to get some exercise, breathe some fresh air, loosen my stiff joints, and get my blood pumping.

Yesterday as I walked in the park I remembered times when I lived in a Trappist monastery as a young man.  The monastery had 2,000 acres of fields, lakes, and woods.  Hiking was recreation.  I spent much of my free time, and monks had lots of free time, walking in the woods, around the lakes, and up and down the hills.  I did have one scary experience with another monk when we got very lost. It was nearly dark when we found our way back to the monastery.  We barely made it on time for evening Vespers.  This reminds me of some favorite quotes....

"I have never been lost.  I was, however, confused once for about two weeks".
-Daniel Boone

"All who wander are not lost".
-J.R.R. Tolkien

If it doesn't rain, as it is supposed to do today, I will be back in the park, doing what Thoreau also calls "sauntering".

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

I once read the following....

You wouldn't worry so much what other people thought of you if you knew how little other people thought of you.

One of the things I realized at the funeral home visitation for my mother is how few close friends I really have.  Only one person from my former employer came to the funeral home.  Several others who are long time friends stopped by and another who could not personally be there asked family members to stop by on their behalf.  I know many, many people but have few intimate friends.  This is largely my own fault as I am a very introverted and withdrawn person.  People seem to like me but I admit that I am not very outgoing.  Nearly five years after his death I still feel the loss of my friend Dennis.  When he was still alive we were very close and I had hoped that someday we would be retired together.  Three weeks into my own retirement I feel like I have fallen off the face of the earth.  This is not all bad.  I am truly loving my new lifestyle, especially my quiet mornings at home.  The neighborhood where I live is virtually empty of people during the daytime.  All I see is the occasional UPS or FedEx truck making a delivery.  If I am paying attention I might see the mailman walk past my window.  Even when I went to a public park on Monday it was virtually empty of people.

Am I lonely?  Not really.  Do I feel forgotten?  A little.  Over the many years I worked I was mostly in leadership positions.  People seemed to love me to the point that many acted like they couldn't work if I wasn't their boss.  When I announced my retirement some people seemed genuinely sad and a few others were stressed.  However, I learned over the years that people quickly get over you and they move on with their lives.  There is life for most people even if Michael Brown is not in it.

I will need to work on being more outgoing and engaged with life.  This morning I signed up for a meditation class at the local Passionist Earth and Spirit Center.  Last year I attended an all day Enneagram workshop there and enjoyed it very much.

Like Bilbo Baggins I am off on an adventure.  To have an adventure you must first leave your house.

The picture shown above of Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins hangs in my room at home where I spend most of my time and where these thoughts originate. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hermit Life

Each night on his MSNBC show "The Eleventh Hour" Brian Williams tells us what day it is in the Trump presidency.  Don't run away.  This is not a political commentary.  It just reminds me that today I am beginning the third week of my retirement from full time work.  The first week was dominated by snow, ice, and bitter cold.  The second week was dominated by the illness and death of my mother.  I am hoping this week begins my new "normal" which in many ways is a hermit life, at least in the daytime.  With that in mind it seems appropriate to return to some Thomas Merton.  Where to start with Merton?  I have read most of his major works and I don't think I have enough time in my life to read them again.  I decided to re-read a collection of journal entries entitled The Intimate Merton.  As I opened the book I immediately saw the following quote.

"I have always wanted to write about everything.  That does not mean to write a book that covers everything, which would be impossible, but a book in which everything can go.  A book with a little of everything that creates itself out of everything.  That has its own life.  A faithful book.  I no longer look at it as a book".  This was written by Merton on July 17, 1956.

If I ever get it together to finally publish a book of my own, this quote describes what type of book it will be.

At this time I am also reading Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr.  It is subtitled "The Search For Our True Self" and is a study of the illusions of the False Self and the seeking of the True Self.

Once I am home alone each workday, the first thing I do is sit in silence for about twenty minutes.  These early morning hours are my favorite time of day.  The early part of the day has always been my favorite time even when I was working.  Sometimes this time of day was shared with a co-worker who I was close to professionally and personally.  Coffee was always part of the relationship.

Shortly  I will go into the kitchen and make a pie for dinner.  Later in the morning I hope to begin the routine of walking in the park.  I can't deny that it will be challenging to leave my "hermitage" but I simply must start getting some exercise.  These last couple of weeks I haven't had much and I feel much older than I am.

By the way, this is Day 17 of my retirement. (smile)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Mother

After a long and difficult day yesterday, my mother passed away last night.  She survived my father by nine years.  I am my mother's first born child and I have three brothers and two sisters.  My mother lived a long life and was 88 years old.  As strange as it may sound I don't think I knew my mother very well.  We never had a truly deep conversation and she never shared any personal feelings or experiences.  I really don't know what she even thought of me or how I turned out.  We were not really close and the only compliment I ever received from her was for the eulogy I gave at my father's funeral.  Although we were not close our relationship was not hostile or estranged.  It just wasn't very deep.  Despite my own personal experience of my mother, some of my younger siblings and most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved her dearly.  She was a good person but I am sure she had her own issues and struggles like the rest of us.  I sometimes got a glimpse into these things but never completely understood their reasons.  I have learned over time that my parents generation had many secrets.  The next few days will be intense.  I expect many visitors to the funeral home.  My youngest son, who is a priest, will preside at her funeral mass and burial.  The last few years were challenging for my mother in terms of her health so I am happy her struggles with health and whatever other burdens she had are over.  She had a long life and a good run.  

Friday, January 19, 2018


Last Friday was supposed to be my last official day at work.  I woke up to a fast approaching winter storm.  I needed to go to the office to meet with my boss, clean out my desk, and say goodbye to my friends and co-workers.  When I arrived at work people were leaving the building.  A manager I worked with told me to do what I needed and then go home.  I did not know it at the time but my boss was stuck in Florida trying to get home.  My building was virtually empty of people.  When I got to the floor where I worked there were only two people there, one of whom was my ever faithful partner and assistant.  She helped me finish my packing and then we walked out of the building together.  I was happy that she was there and I was able to say goodbye face to face.  Throughout this first week of retirement I've had the thought that I really didn't have closure with my office, co-workers, and friends.  I feel like I didn't get to say goodbye.  When I went to work last Friday I expected to work most of the day and to be able to walk around and say my goodbyes.  The reality is that it feels like my entire work experience just vanished into thin air.  Some people in the office might feel this way about me.  I don't mean to sound arrogant but I know I was a well liked and popular person.  I think many people saw me as a "character" who was somewhat entertaining, especially when I was going off about some office process or task.  I exploited my old man/senior citizen grumpiness on a daily basis.  However, I think most people enjoyed this.  Who will take my place and say all the things other people are thinking but are afraid to say out loud?  If you are one of my former co-workers, especially if we literally worked together every day, I am sorry if we weren't able to say goodbye to one another.  Although I don't miss working, I do miss people.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


After braving the cold, the darkness, and the morning commute I returned to the warmth and comfort of my home.  As always my neighborhood is a very quiet and solitary place during the work week.  After brewing some African coffee that my wife gave me for Christmas I sat down for my morning meditation.  Although meditation can sometimes be a restless and difficult experience I still enjoy it most of the time.  Think of meditation as going to the gym.  It is a form of spiritual exercise.  It is not always pleasant in the moment but over time it is beneficial.  Of course there are also times when you really enjoy it and feel like you could go on and on.  This morning as I sat in silence I had the thought over and over how grateful I am for these days.  I feel like I am on an extended retreat.  The ice and the snow and the extreme cold increase my sense of isolation.  With all due respect to humanity I am loving my solitude.  Retirement is not a guarantee for everyone so I am exceedingly grateful that I have been given the means and the opportunity to retire from full time working.  Down the road I may venture into part time work or volunteering but for now I have been given the gift of extended and full time retirement.  I have often complained in the past that my life was spent meeting the needs and expectations of other people often to my own detriment and unhappiness.  I think I have earned the right to now be a little selfish and to focus on my own needs.    

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


One of my new goals is to meditate on a regular basis.  I have always strived to meditate on a regular basis but my practice has been erratic.  With my new found solitude and leisure I hope to be more disciplined about it.  What is meditation for me?  At this stage of my life it is simply sitting, being quiet, and breathing in the tradition of the Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and his book The Miracle Of Mindfulness.  For many years, while I was still working, my wife and I would ride to work together.  We both worked downtown, it was convenient, and it saved money.  I will still do this on a regular basis if for no other reason than to get myself out of bed.  Morning is my favorite time of day and the goal of my meditation, not to mention my retirement, is to be awake.  When the Buddha was asked who he was, he replied, "I am awake".  At this time my world is still cold and covered in ice and snow.  In a few days we will have spring like weather.  As the weather improves and real spring makes its annual appearance I will add walking in the park to my daily routine.  The circle will be complete when I arrange my day to also include an afternoon meditation session.  It is all part of the slowing down and calming down process.  When most people look at me they see an aging hippie and they assume I am a calm, laid back, not a care in the world kind of guy.  This image is not totally true or accurate.  I am someone who tries to always be calm and laid back but internally I am often not that way at all.  I am not always happy or content with my life.  Though the surface of my being may appear serene, on the inside I am often a whirling dervish of feelings and emotions.  I want to be calm, serene and happy but too often I am restless and agitated.  

Now I have to go defrost the ice maker.  I will try to breathe while I do it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The First Day

Yesterday was my first day of retirement.  I didn't feel retired.  I felt like someone who called in sick when I should have dragged myself into the office.  It was also Martin Luther King, Jr. day so my granddaughter spent the day with me.  I didn't see much of her because she is now a teenager who stays up late and then sleeps much of the day away.  In my part of the world we are experiencing winter and for now I am living in a very cold, snow covered landscape.  Once the weather warms up and the snow and ice melt I hope to go to the park every day for walks.  I did begin what I hope is a disciplined spiritual practice of meditation and reading.  My urge is to play rock and roll music all day but I am striving to start my day with silence and meditation.  I am enjoying my solitude even if I do feel a little bit guilty for not going to work every day.  Although I have wanted to retire for a long time, now that it is here I am finding it to be an adjustment.  I have spent much of my life meeting myself coming and going so having lots of leisure and very little responsibility is a new experience.  It is difficult to not think of my former co-workers and feel like I have abandoned them.  These early days of retirement remind me of retreats at the monastery.  When you first arrive at the monastery, usually on a Friday afternoon, you feel restless and agitated.  Your body and psyche are wired from your frantic life and the silence and solitude of the monastery is a shock to the system.  Over time you slow down, quiet down, and unwind.  About the time you are where you want to be it is time to go back home and jump back into the rat race.  Now that I am retired I am on a perpetual retreat.  My slowing down is permanent.  My life will be quieter on the inside as well as the outside.  My nervous system will calm itself down.  When one's life comes to a screeching halt like mine has done even a naturally contemplative person like me needs to transition from a frantic life into a calm life.