Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Short Runs; Long Rewards

July 6, 2016

Today felt a bit odd. Normally, I have a list of things I want to get done on any given day, and although there are a couple items left on my summer to-do list, none of them were something I was ready to start on yet. So I was at loose ends for awhile, which is an unusual place for me to be. For forty years my days have been pretty well mapped out ahead of time. A totally free day rarely happened, and when it did, I didn't know what to do with it. Just like today. I kept busy with some phone calls I needed to make, touching up the pond sealing project, a few other odds and ends. Bass lesson at four was the target, and I left home shortly after three for it. I stopped by Cassadaga beach to visit granddaughter Abi, who is lifeguarding there, then dinner at six followed by listening to a band concert in the park.

The day filled up, but it made me stop and think: Is this the way retirement will play out; having to scramble to find meaningful things to do? Maybe in twenty years I'll welcome just sitting and relaxing, but right now, the thought of doing that endlessly gives me the heebeejeebies.

At the end of the day I checked my emails and read one I receive regularly from It was entitled, "Five brave things to put in your pocket for hard days in a hard world." I suppose all those words should be capitalized, but I'm too lazy to hit the caps button that frequently, so you'll just have to deal with it. Each suggestion was good, but it was the third one that grabbed my attention the most:

"Number Three: Don’t love your present self more than you love your future self. Give your future self the present of being loved more than your present self.
That means: Do hard things in the short run — to give yourself holy and happy things in the long run. Though everywhere tells you the point of living is to avoid suffering — please: Always embrace the struggle: You know there’s no way around pain — there’s always either the pain of disappointment or the pain of discipline. And don’t ever, ever, ever be concerned with failing — only be concerned about failing to keep on going.

I'm finding that retirement has a unique danger: resting on one's laurels by imagining that the productive years are behind you. After all, I'm not bringing home a paycheck anymore. I'm living off the built-up capital of forty years' worth of working, earning, and setting money aside for these days I'm now in. To put it clearly, there is no longer a direct correlation between the amount of time and energy I put into a project and the money I get to put in my pocket. If I choose, I could sit and do absolutely nothing, and the money would still come in. I have already done what Ann Voskamp recommended; I've done the hard things in the short run, and I am now enjoying holy and happy things in the long run. short run isn't over yet, or at least, it shouldn't be. Once the short run is over, once I quit accepting life's challenges or stop reaching out for as St. Paul put it, "the upward call of God in Christ," for all intents and purposes, I stop living.

No matter how old we are, if we live life only looking in the rear-view mirror, we are only setting ourselves up for a crash. That's one of the reasons I'm taking string bass lessons. Sure, I'm loving the instrument, and retirement gives me the opportunity to devote myself to it, but it's not only about playing an instrument; it's about reaching out for the future. That's why I'm going back to Cuba after a two-year hiatus. I don't know where it will lead, but even God can't steer a stationary car; I need to be on the move if I want God to lead me.

So although today started without plans, it ended with a full plate, which is exactly what I want, and not just so I can eat; I'm sharing it with you, and hopefully with many others as the days, weeks, months, and years add up. I'm not done reaching yet. I've really only just begun.

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