This week SMART Living 365 is pleased to introduce you to Bob Lowry as our guest blogger. I have been reading Bob’s blog A Satisfying Retirement for over a year and believe he offers ideas that are practical and SMART regardless of whether you are retired or not. Thank you, Bob, for filling in and sharing your thoughts with us this week.
The sky was beginning to cloud over, kids were playing, ducks were looking for bread crumbs, bikers rolled by while teens on skateboards defied gravity. Sitting in a folding chair and watching the scene my eyes were drawn to the surface of the lake. The sun was at just the right angle to cover the water with sparkles. It was beautiful. I was enjoying a satisfying retirement day.
Within a few minutes, the sun’s angle had changed and the sparkles were gone. Or, were they? From someone else’s viewpoint they probably were just as fabulous. They were simply gone from my view.
Isn’t life kind of like that? There are brief moments that sparkle and shimmer. We look upon them with wonder. We remember them. We talk about them. But, real life takes place in between the sparkles. It is how we fill the space between them that matters.
Relationships are certainly made up off sparkles and spaces. There are the everyday moments in relationships which occupy most of your life. Those are the large spaces filled with chores and responsibilities, some arguments, making tough decisions, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. These don’t sparkle at all. They are the mundane activities that fill your day when you have other people in your life. They are what we call living.
Then there are those times when you and your spouse or significant other are exactly on the same page. Everything is going according to plan. You are communicating well and any disagreements are minor. Your love life is on track. If you have children or grandkids there are times when things just sparkle: a vacation by the lake, a great day at the zoo, a family night watching a favorite movie.
As a retired person, you have control over most of your day. At least you think you do. But, when you must wait for a repair person, or your car is in the shop you are the mercy of others. When you spend a few hours waiting for an overworked doctor you are reminded you are not in control quite as much as you thought. Menus must be planned, food must be bought, bills must be paid, gardens must be tended, the bike should be ridden. The days and weeks pass by so quickly you wonder where the time went.
Then, there are those moments when you grab a little time and sit down to read that new novel you’ve been aching to open. Your hobby bench invites you to build that project or fix the broken lamp you want back in the living room. You find some time to write, and out flows everything you have bottled up while the spaces of life are filled with everyday stuff.
You remember you have time with the school kids tomorrow night to tutor them in math or English. As they grasp the concepts you are explaining their smiling faces sparkle and shine. Maybe you sit in the sun at the coffee shop sipping a latte, reading the paper, and people-watching the afternoon away. These precious times make you feel alive and vibrant. They are the sparkle that make a day special and memorable.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” That is the human condition. We want a life that we control. We would like a day with nothing but sparkles. No chores, no irritations, no disappointments, no hassles. A day that goes according to our plans.
But, that isn’t how things work. We can be much happier and much more satisfied when we learn to accept the large spaces into which we put our everyday life, while being on the lookout for those sparkles of pure joy and beauty that brighten and enlighten. After all, if every meal was nothing but desserts, then desserts would not be so special and delightful, would they!
Bob Lowry retired in 2001 after a career as a researcher, program, and management consultant to hundreds of radio stations across the country. He has written two books on retirement and has been a guest contributor to several others. He writes the popular A Satisfying Retirement blog and lives with his wife in Arizona.