In my retirement life I probably read more of the weekend’s papers than I used to. I was reading an article by David Mitchell in last weekend’s Observer. He writes a weekly column in The Observer, he has also written a book and I imagine that was why, this week, he was being interviewed as well as writing his column which is quite a long one i.e. fills at least a whole page with his photo of course. He was asked if he ever worried that ‘the well will run dry’, i.e. run out of things to write about. He’s been writing every week (I think – I don’t actually read him) for 6 years so it’s a fair question I would have thought. His response was interesting and struck a chord with me. He said he worried about it every week as he had this very week. As indeed do I. I worried about it at 6.30 when I woke up on this Thursday morning. What would I write about for Friday’s blog? I am only self-contracted to write one blog a week to be published on a Tuesday but, for better or for worse, I have been writing two blogs per week and I’d like to keep this up if I can. But at 6.30 the day before I was due to publish, my mind was a blank. Then, in only the next hour, several things happened and I needed to worry no more. It led to a blog that was as follows. Broadly it was about being in control. A kind of self-esteem off-shoot.
As Rudyard Kipling once wrote as a part of his poem, ‘If’,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same
I take this to mean don’t get too down when things go wrong nor too giddy when things go well, then you’ll do alright. When I write my book about self-esteem in retired people I’m going to work these wise word in somehow. Just as I will one of my other key tenets for a happy life – control what you can (and can what you can’t). I suppose that the verb ‘to can’ (conjugating the verb ‘to can’ works fine but this is to give the word the wrong, in this context, meaning) as in the American sense of can it, or stop it is rather old-fashioned these days but it will do for me. In psychology terms it harks back to the notion of locus of control. External locus of control people see their lives as being controlled by others. Internal locus of control people believe they can make a difference by what they do. In a nutshell their life is in their hands. This is far too simple an explanation of how people behave (either extreme is unhealthy) but it will suffice here. Probably you’re looking for the Rudyard Kipling version – aim for somewhere in the middle and don’t get too excited either way.
I was reminded of all this on Thursday morning. Before half past seven I had soared to the heights because my first (but by no means last) Ebook had appeared in Kindle books (as in above photo, I chose a positive image to illustrate the blog) and, five minutes later, plunged to the depths as I checked out last night’s Forest result. All before half past seven. At some point I’m going to have to write another blog about my apparently once-again, hapless football team but not to day, let’s stick with the vague notion of writing as therapy for this blog, although not really this either. I will just say that anybody who puts his well-being or self-esteem in the hands of success (of others) in sport, is a fool. That makes me a fool at times because I get seriously down-hearted when my teams do badly which seems to be most of the time. So this morning or Thursday morning to be accurate, I was presented with two perfect examples one after the other of an area of my retirement life that I have complete control over – self publishing my crime novel Dead Country (above). Until the point where you put your well-being into the hands of the people who buy or, more likely, do not buy your book, you have complete control. Achieving the publishing of this book was in my control and doing it gave me pleasure. Much more pleasure than working with ‘proper’ publishers has ever done. I must admit that I did ‘farm out’ the changing of my Word file into Mobi or HTML and that did take that part of the process out of my hands but, on the whole, I was in control. The Forest result on the other hand was out of my control and gave me pain.
Incidentally to digress only slightly in the match report on BBC sport I noticed that Psycho Pearce is making a whole world of pain for himself, in my humble opinion, by casting the problem in the form of the individuals in his team (that he had chosen). When I worked as an educational psychologist schools frequently adopted a, what we called, a ‘within child’ model to explain bad behaviour – it’s Dwayne he’s a bad un and we need to expel him, there’s no room for children like him in our school where every other child behaves perfectly. I didn’t see it like that (it’s not helpful to finding ways forward) so I tried to talk to them about the school’s system for managing pupil behaviour –do pupils know what they’re supposed to do, do teachers consistently follow their own systems, is the curriculum appropriate and so on. Stewart basically said the same of his individuals (that he had bought and selected) – they’re poor defenders – never mentioning those things that were within his control – team formations and systems, training methods, being out-thought by opposing manager (which seemed to be the case in this match report) and so on. A world of pain awaits, Stewart.
Finally, before half past seven, there was an item on the 7 o’clock news about well-being in retirement. It said that the key to this well-being was having a sense of purpose. And so I constructed my list of the things I needed / had chosen to do in the day. Quite a list for a retired person it was too. What more tangible manifestation of the need to be in control than making lists? My diary is full of them. For me there is no greater pleasure in retirement than the making of and then ticking off of tasks on my lists. Not everybody’s cup of tea I realise, but it works for me and it’s not even 7.30.