December 31, 2017
If you are a senior, may I beg of you never ever to apologize for those occasions when you do “nothing.” For people still in their careers, “nothing” means downtime. For seniors, “nothing” can be uptime. The trick, in my opinion, is to endow “nothing” with variety, interest, skill, experience and personal appropriateness.
During the past decade I had more than a dozen enjoyable diversions.
— reading books and magazines
— amateur photography
— listening to classical music
— doing cross-word puzzles
— walking in the woods
— short distance travel
— eating out
— sitting by the fire
— scribbling in my notebooks
— nurturing tomatoes
— seeing an occasional movie
— puttering around in the garage and/or shop
— chatting with family and friends
— watching baseball games
And — you won’t believe this — sitting quietly in an empty room and staring at the wall.
As you can see, some of the “nothings” were active, some were passive. Several required brains, several required muscle. Some I did with others, some I did alone. Some cost money, others were free.
Occasionally something on the diversion list jumps into the avocational list. For example, I have a casual yet persistent interest in phenomenology. Don’t ask me yet what it is, because I’m way back at the beginning, not able to separate phenomenology from ontology. The current level of interest sends me to Wikipedia and Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. If this pursuit gets serious, it will have to graduate from diversion to avocation.
Conversely, an item that has securely occupied the avocation group during my decade of the 70s, might well slip to the diversion group, and items now on the diversion group might have to be eliminated totally because of age-related limitations. Burning eyes limit evening reading. Deafness excludes music. Sciatic pain discourages walking. Shaky hands don’t hold coffee cups well. A stroke might force an end to photography. Death of a loved one may lead to more limited social interactions.
Nonetheless, I don’t want to capitulate to old age without examining carefully the kind of resources that others have used for their diversions. I never played pool, but remember seeing the men in the senior center enjoying tournaments in the basement. Maybe I would enjoy pool. Let’s say I can no long drive to the theater; I/we might find enjoyable evenings via Netflix or something like it. We currently have no pets in the house; I have learned that many seniors rally through relating to dogs and cats, fish and birds.
For the time being, what are my wishes having to do with diversions?
- I don’t laugh much. I don’t tell jokes. I don’t have funny bones. But I would welcome during the next decade diversions that brighten spirits, that admit smiles, that communicate goodwill.
- In order to have money for avocational ventures, I want to keep diversion expenses low.
- I want to maintain (perhaps “develop”) both private and social diversions in order to forestall a closing in on myself.
- Family solidarity seems the more important as I age. I hope that my diversions complement and/or supplement those activities that make a family strong.
Thus I come to the close of this series on The Big Seven. Perhaps, just perhaps, the series encourages you to come home to your own pivots, your own perspectives, your own ways of seeing yourself. If that’s the case, drop me a note sometime. I’d like to hear about it
And we come to the close of 2017. As is our happy fortune, we will be with our Soup Group, formed more than 50 years ago. We will eat together, play a game or two together, sing together, open gifts, reminisce, update each other, take a group photo and probably retire before the big ball in Times Square begins to fall.
Happy New Year.