not quite this bad

I’ve put off writing this retirement blog for a week or so to be sure it has the benefit of perspective. It was all quite emotive for me and I wanted to get it right. Whether I have is debatable but here it is. I’m going to start this blog with a couple of quotes because it’s my blog and I can and I like them. They’re from very different places but have something relevant to our retirement days and also have something in common I think. The first is a quote from my diary. Most of these day to day quotes are tosh but this one caught my eye. The second is a quote from a friend on Facebook that she shared with the world. Not her quote but one she wanted others to benefit from. So the first quote:

“Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water, after enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.” Zen saying.

Don’t know who Zen was but I take it to mean that no matter how high you set the bar in your retirement life nothing much changes, so why sweat it. Don’t worry relax and enjoy. I tried very hard to keep this thought in my head when I appeared at my first jazz gig last Friday night. I’d set myself a big, for me, challenge and I was worried I was going to fail.

I was playing the keyboard with my new jazz chums in public for the first time. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. My hands were shaking so much it was amazing I could hit any of the right notes. But then maybe I didn’t. That’s the thing about jazz if you hit the wrong note, do it again and people will think you’re being creative. Now it’s gone and I wonder at my nervousness. Life goes on, I’m pleased I rose to the challenge but why was I so screwed up by it? As in the above quote, why worry about finding perfection or setting yourself big challenges in your retirement, life goes on regardless.

Which brings me to my second quote:

Your mind is a garden

Your thoughts are seeds

You can grow flowers

Or you can grow weeds

So as somebody who has quite often written about the importance of self-talk or positive thinking in a retirement context, this short poem neatly sums up what we need to do, for example at times of stress, like my jazz appearance. I admit I let my negative thoughts nearly overwhelm me. My head was full of weeds. I wouldn’t let Mrs Summerhouse come with me because it would make me beyond nervous.

I was accompanied by my son-in-law who was there to stop me running out. If this was the task then having an ex-rugby league player across the table while waiting to perform, is quite useful. Puts paid to any thoughts of the type, I could leave now and nobody would be any wiser. I suppose thinking of the type – I’m stuck with this and no getting out of it now, was more to the point.

There were several times during the evening when any attempt at positive (flower) thinking took a real battering. Probably, no make that definitely, the worst was when my nemesis walked in. You couldn’t write it although I think somebody did – of all the bars in all the world why did he walk into this one? Is it possible for a nemesis to be a really nice person or does that just make it worse? A great keyboard player and a really nice guy, that’s almost unbearable and the weeds were thriving in my head. I should have been thinking along the lines – it doesn’t matter when the evening is over I would still fetch water and chop wood, metaphorically of course.

I’d been asked to select a couple of tunes to play. Yes, that’s all it was just sitting in with the house band for a couple of tunes chosen by me, how bad could it be? I showed my choices to the house band-leader. I’ve never heard of either of them he said helpfully. Hmm, cut down those weeds. I’d been promised supportive but it didn’t feel that way at the time. I was of course just being overly sensitive about my performance. I needed those flowers perhaps in the form of you’re a good man to be rising to this challenge. I know you’re out of your comfort zone but that’s a good thing. I’m full of admiration for what you’re about to do, something along those lines?

Anyway I did it and I was OK, not brilliant, but job done. The reception from my Monday night mates was enthusiastic, maybe just a little too much so, you know the kind of praise you give a child who’s read a word against the odds. Maybe that’s unkind. I didn’t stay to listen to my nemesis play but that wasn’t my choice because son-in-law and I had to leave so he could pick up my daughter after her works Christmas do. So a genuine reason to leave and a very welcome one. Just a hint of cowardice there or could I mark it down as a merely sensible course of action? Weeds, flowers?

So to end this rather rambling blog. Back to a common theme for me in this retirement blog, overall are challenges good for the retired person? Self-esteem enhancing or self-esteem damaging? Who knows, my thoughts change from weeds to flowers and back again, in the space of one bar. My thinking goes from, challenges are vital to us retired people to keep us from an encroaching senile state to, what the f— am I doing this for, putting myself through all this quite unnecessary stress when I don’t have to? What is wrong with the quiet retirement life? It will be very interesting to see if I choose to attend another of these ‘gig’ evenings (they happen once a month). Will I think time for another challenge or simply, well, I’ve been there, done that, nothing more to prove? And the thing is I really don’t know.

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