More retirement musings

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I had not planned on covering the same topic for two columns in a row, but here we are. Let’s call this one, “Retirement musings, Part 2.”

That’s what happens when you have time to fill. Your mind tends to wander, and sometimes it lands in a spot you’ve already been to.

My sister is coming up on that age when she’s thinking about being a woman of leisure, and she wants to spend her time doing something more fulfilling than vegetating in front of the TV set.

She’s starting to make practice runs at various pursuits. Her latest involves pulling strands of fabric together into something useful. It’s either knitting or crochet — I forget which is which, but one uses a single hook, and the other uses a couple of needles. She is good at one and having trouble with the other and frets over whether it’s worth the trouble to master both.

My advice would be no. Ignore the one vexing you and stick with the one you enjoy, even to the point of obsession. Having fun is not supposed to be hard work.

I speak from experience.

Looking back, I realize I have sampled numerous avocations, a string of them one after the other. (Calling them “hobbies” would make them seem more frivolous than I think they were.) I would pursue each furiously and single-mindedly until I got tired of it and/or something more diverting caught my attention.

Pool. Bowling. Racquetball. Videotaping. Multiple-track recording. Poker. Experimental cooking. My obsession usually lasted until I got pretty good, but boredom usually set in before I got even close to great.

I might have become an excellent chef. At one point, I had more than 100 cookbooks, and I ambled over to the bargain section for another one or two with every trip to the bookstore. Poring over recipes was like my porn. But a rainstorm and a leaky roof destroyed most of the collection, and I drifted away from the kitchen.

My latest diversion, discovered much too late in life, is bridge. Unlike poker, which required psychological warfare against other players in order to get to a level above that which skill alone could achieve, bridge is almost entirely about the logical subtleties of mental calculation. It’s fairly easy to learn, but its intricacies can take a lifetime to conquer. I wish I had encountered it at a much younger age.

I’m also returning to the joys of watching pro football, the only sport I’ve been able to tolerate as a spectator, except for an occasional taste of baseball, thanks to my father’s love of the Cincinnati Reds, and a love-hate relationship with the IU Hoosiers that lasted until Bobby Knight got fired.

I boycotted the NFL for a year because of the league’s pusillanimity in dealing with all that take-a-knee-for-the-anthem nonsense.

That made me feel smugly anti-progressive until I realized I was letting the political ugliness of half-wits spoil my vicarious amusement.

That’s the second piece of advice I would give my sister: Don’t let others influence the way you decide to relax and unwind. No matter what you choose, there will be somebody who will declare it a waste of time and ask, condescendingly, if you can’t find something more worthwhile to dedicate yourself to.

It will not occur to them to accept that they, too, have pursuits others would find silly and pointless.

Except for those who plan to devote every waking moment of retirement searching for cancer’s cure or exploring Aristotle in the original Greek, we all need to use some of our time for pure and simple self-indulgent delight.

You choose your waste of time, and I’ll choose mine, even if it involves suffering through the Colts blowing another season or building a bridge to nowhere.

 

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at leoedits@yahoo.com.

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