Today I swam for 1500 meters at the Olympic pool north of Chiang Mai. That’s thirty lengths. For some sixty-two year old’s, that would be quite a feat. For others, mere child’s play. It took me almost an hour and for a lot of that time, I was thinking “how much longer, oh Lord\?” But I did it anyway, because I sort of promised myself I would use this time to better myself.
Then, I practiced the piano for forty minutes. I’m playing pieces that many an eight-grader has already mastered, but I haven’t, so I put in the time. A lot of my effort is spent ignoring the critical voice in my head that fairly screams “You’re no good at this. You have early onset Alzheimer’s. Give up!” But I kept practicing, and although I’m not as good as perhaps the majority of people who play the piano, I’m better than I was forty minutes ago.
So far, this is the main lesson I’m learning from being retired. There is no external scorekeeper. It’s all an inside job. Eventually, my life will become more structured and I’ll have to budget my time again, but for now, it’s all a impressionistic wash of form and color. There aren’t even any edges to this painting.
You’d think that coloring outside the lines would be the activity of choice for the retired, but the fact remains that discipline is probably called for now than when we were young. Learning to ride a bike, to swim, memorizing the multiplication tables….none of that came easily. Surely, now we should be able to relax, since we already laid all that groundwork.
Entropy, that great enemy of age and order, says otherwise. Use it or lose it. Cling to some sort of discipline or disintegrate into a quivering pile of mush.