I Was Thinking... Learn By Doing Nothing
Today was what the weatherman called a “Top 10” weather day. It was what we had hoped for all spring. And with the perfect day, people took advantage of it.
Some golfed or played pickleball, others tilled their garden plot, mowed their lawn or planted flowers. You didn’t want to waste such a perfect day. But after I did as many of my “to do” things as time allowed, I sat down on our deck to rest.
I could still hear someone else mowing but could also hear the call of a cardinal and other birds. As I watched our windmill turn slowly, a squirrel crossed the garden, jumped the fence, and explored several areas of our backyard. In the quiet, an oriole arrived at the feeder and attacked the orange hanging there. A couple days before, a gold finch had visited the yellow feeder.
Without really knowing it, these simple creatures had a lesson to teach me.
While they have an innate instinct for survival, they seem to flourish without all the worries the more advanced species (us) seem to create for ourselves. The creatures find food where they can, survive under extreme conditions, and travel extreme distances without the aid of GPS. Maybe that is why we try and attract them to our homes, we admire their seemingly worriless freedom.
Even in retirement, so many of my days are filled with “things to do.” My wife and I both have a calendar so we can be reminded of what is due, what is happening, and where we are supposed to be. Even at home, the list of what we hope to accomplish continues to grow.
While we may not make a lot of progress in completing all the tasks, they remain on our minds. We seem to be programed to feel like we always need to get something done. Of course, society couldn’t function without people doing stuff. We depend on others to do their jobs and provide services we all need. But if we only focus on the goals, we often forget to enjoy the journey along the way referred to as life.
One advantage of being a senior citizen is we often become a little philosophical. Since our time ahead is a lot less than our time behind, we feel we have some valuable perspectives to share. Most of us have learned a little along the way because we made plenty of mistakes.
One insight that becomes apparent after you retire is that you were not indispensable. As much as we wanted to believe that without us, things could not possibly function as smoothly, but we learned that the world continued to go on even when we were no longer there. Someone else replaced us.
Even as parents, sooner or later you realize your children can live on their own. The greatest athlete, the President, a teacher, salesman, doctor, or parent eventually find out that once they were no longer in their “key” position, things continued.
The struggle for career advancement, a big house, an ample bank account, the boat, the lake home or whatever we thought we needed, took a lot of energy and effort. It all came at a cost. It stressed our bodies, ate up our time and we can’t take any of it with us at the end.
But after a couple of minutes of just doing nothing but watching a squirrel and some birds and enjoying a beautiful spring day, I realized there is more to life.
A writer once talked about the importance of the dash. You know, the mark on your gravestone between the year you were born and the year you died. He said the starting and ending dates weren’t nearly as important as the dash. It represented what you did between. A trip from one destination directly to another destination without enjoying the journey along the way could be a real waste of the dash.
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Photo: I was thinking Ron Albright