We spent 6 weeks traveling to and being in the Northwest. It was a chance to get away from the heat of the desert and visit family and friends. Now we’re back and having to adjust to the heat all over again. Highs here in Green Valley are in the 90’s, which is still damned hot, but at least it’s not over 100. We Southwesterners universally dread triple digit temperatures. The extreme heat does seriously impair one’s motivation to go outside.
I only wrote two blog entries during the month of August. I had trouble keeping any sort of routine going while traveling. Before we left, I promised myself that I would continue to write, exercise regularly and eat good, healthy food. After several days on the road, I realized that promise blew out the car window. I surrendered to the reality of being self- disciplined, on occasion. Our trip turned out to be a vacation from our usual retirement routine.
Katie and I were surprised by how much we enjoyed being in the city of Seattle. We stayed in a basement apartment of a friend’s house in the Greenwood area. We could walk to restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores. Prior to this trip, Seattle had been a place to visit for short periods of time, usually on weekends; after a few days we were eager to get away from the crowds, the noise and the fast pace. Now that we’re retired we discovered that during the middle of a weekday Seattle is a very pleasant city to be in. And there was always somewhere to go, something interesting to do and somebody to do it with. We just needed to remember to get back home by 3:30 in the afternoon.
It was good to see young people and young families out and about. Living in a retirement area for the past couple years, we’ve become accustomed to everyone around us being old. We enjoyed watching these young families. I could appreciate their energy and aliveness, yet at the same time, I was often struck by the thought, I’m glad I’m not in that stage of life anymore. The young adults seem so driven and rushed. As we leisurely walked around Green Lake, they would whiz past us either running (often pushing a stroller), roller skating or walking and talking fast and seriously with a friend. I hoped they were figuring out how to change the world for the better. I’ve certainly given up.
Another thought that came to me on these strolls was, We have to be whatever age we are. It just wouldn’t work to skip a stage of life. All the striving, worrying and disillusionment along life’s way seem necessary in order for us to be comfortable with our present age. From my current perspective, these young up-and-comers’ attempts to get ahead in the world mostly look like a big waste of time. I guess they have to do something with all that energy.
In Vietnam we had a saying that came in handy right before my buddies and I did something unauthorized, “What are they going to do, send us to Nam?” We felt we were already in the worst situation possible. Approaching old age puts us in a similar position. Most young people stop seeing older people, unless, of course, we’re in their way. And hardly anyone is interested in what we did in the past or what we’re doing currently. This realization could lead to depressing thoughts about oneself, or to a new sense of freedom. That woman who wants to wear purple and eat more ice cream seems to have figured it out. The hard part is letting go of old thoughts that instruct us to follow patterns of behavior that aren’t relevant anymore. To embrace this new sense of freedom, one has to stop caring so much about what others think. When I viewed the young people hustling around me as one giant ant colony, I felt like I was close to the correct perspective. .
I noticed I spent a lot of time doing the same things I do at home, only in a different environment: .
Here I am in Talent, Oregon, outside a coffee shop reading.
And here I am on our friend Pamela’s back deck, reading. Every once in a while I looked up and remembered, Oh yeah I’m not at home.
The best part about the trip was reconnecting with friends and family. There is nothing better in this life than being with people you care about and who knew you in the past.
But it’s good to be back in Green Valley, even though it’s still too hot. Traveling is a great adventure, but there’s nothing like home. Our vacation from retirement has given me new life and a resolve to do whatever it is I most want to do. What are they going to do? I'm old and getting older every day.