Monday, July 18, 2016

Out of Selfishness

Out of selfishness, I want to talk to you about something important.  It will sound preachy.  There will be imperative sentences.  I don’t know how else to say this.

You need to sleep.  You need to make sure you go into a dark room at night, lie down, and sleep for a long time.  Go for a long interrupted period of good sleep.  Strive to dream and then remember your dreams.  It helps to talk about them or write them down immediately after waking.  But if you can’t go that far least think about your dreams.  They’re a wonderful part of life, usually markedly different from the world we stand up in and experience during our waking hours. The world we live in while awake can be difficult.  The world of dreams has infinite possibility.

Nap when you feel tired.  Find some good quiet place to shut your eyes and let your mind go.  You know what happens: you find yourself breathing deeply, you forget what it was that occupied your thoughts just moments before, your mind begins to expand and scatter, you let go of wakefulness, and you doze.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  Go for it, even if it’s only ten minutes.  Or five. Take what you can get.  And don’t let anyone give you shit about it.  We need those naps.  They recharge us.  You might wake up and find an answer you were seeking because your mind is clear.  Napping is the best.  It’s good for you.

Limit your work.  You may work to make money, to achieve a goal, or accomplish some desired end but don’t do it all the time, whatever it is.  Stop thinking about those ends, those goals, those accomplishments if only for a while.  Do something entirely different.  If you work with your mind do something physical to shut off those thoughts for a while.  If you labor physically take time to be still and think.  Find a balance that feels good.  Lose yourself in the lives of those you love.  You may have to change a lot or only a little to limit your work but limit your work.  Pursue the different, the fun, the never done, the always wanted to, the I don’t think I can, the oh not me.  Mix it up.

Concentrate on how you feel and do things to make yourself feel better.  You may need to admit, confess, or share fears, worries and concerns.  Don’t keep them tight within you.  Let them out.  Write them down, talk about them, do something to make them external to you and not secret.  And then breathe.  Feel your chest and your shoulders relax.  Eat at home and eat well.  Sit down at a table.  Shut everything else off.

Does this all sound touchy-feely and new age?  I don’t care.  We live in a world of high stress.  We are flooded with constant news and information, much of it horribly violent and traumatic.  Looking too closely at the larger world for too long can be hazardous to your health.  Of course you have to look.  You can’t help but look.  You must be informed, you must read, you must form opinions, you must vote, you must be involved.  But you also must withdraw from the craziness.  You have to create your own space, your own reality that is a comfort to live in.  That space need not be physical or material, it could be only in your mind, but you need to relax.  Create in yourself an awareness of when you are hurting yourself with worry and stress and back the hell off.  Put yourself in a place, mentally or physically of both, where you can sleep, eat, laugh, think, relax, escape, and recharge.  Please.  Please.

How is this selfish on my part?  It is selfish because I want to hear from you again, be with you again, enjoy your thoughts or your company.  Chances are if you are reading this we are acquainted and you are important to me.  I am having another birthday in August, aging like everyone else, but I plan to be around for some time.  I’d like you to continue to be part of my life.  I feel an attachment to my readers.  If we do this right we can all grow old, in varying degrees in our own way, and finish up at relatively the same time.  Whatever else happens let’s try getting old and taking it from there.  Getting old can be a challenge, but dying young is worse.  Some of us may not be able to do anything about our death but some of us can.  Stress can kill you.  You don’t have to live with it.  Dump it, escape it, endure it in small doses, recognize it, manage it in some way.  But for Christ’s sake don’t let it take you out. 

Consider this e mail string, excerpts of which took place over the three years since I retired.

Me-When are you going to retire?
Him-I don’t know.  Not yet. There is so much to do.  I think of you down there in the shack.
Me—You should visit.  Whatever you do, don’t work too hard.

Me-I’ve been reading about your outfit in the news.  It must be awful.  The decisions, the cutbacks.
Him-You have no idea.  But it’s almost over. That part at least.
Me-When are you going to retire?
Him-There are so many things to sort out yet.  Soon.

Him-I was down your way, drove past on 80 but didn’t have time to stop.
Me-You should have stopped if only for one drink. The shack is always open.
Him-When I retire I’m coming down for a day.  I’ll bring a bottle, and records.  Do you have a turntable?
Me-I bought myself one for Christmas.
Him-It’s a plan then.

Me-Glad you liked the blog. When are you going to retire?

Him-Don’t tell anyone, but I’m pulling the plug at the end of the fiscal year.
Me-Does that mean you’re coming down to the shack?
Him-Yes it does.  As soon as the dust settles.  I’m going to the vacation house for a while first, then I’m coming for a day with the old albums. 
Me-That’s perfect.  You’ll love retirement.  Before you leave I’ll need a home e mail address.
Him-I believe you have it.  Just in case I’ll send you another e mail from that address. 

Him-Here you go from the house computer.  Hey, you’ll like this.  Went to see Willie Nelson on Saturday. (a mutual friend) and his wife joined us. He doesn't seem to miss the BS at all. And by the way Willie at 83 still plays a mean guitar.  When I come to the shack what kind of bottle should I bring?
Me-Anything you like that is brown and 80 proof or more.  See you soon.  

My friend never made it to the shack.  His retirement lasted less than a week, and not because he went back to work.  He won’t be coming.  I’m still trying to get used to that.  He won’t be coming.  I won’t be seeing him again.  I will never again slide into a meeting late and sit next to him.  He won’t be bringing me copied CD’s of old folk music in his briefcase.  But at least he has attended his last meeting.  I won’t be listening to his albums.  We won’t be toasting retirement by clicking mason jars of brown spirits in the shack.  He worked hard and did a lot for others.  I wish he had done more for himself.  I’m selfish that way.  I want to stay around a long time, and I want you to stay here with me.

I don’t know what the playlist was for the Willie Nelson concert my friend attended, but chances are he sang “Lucky Old Sun.”  It’s a 1949 song by a guy named Beasley Smith, lyrics by Haven Gillespie.  If you judge the merits of a song and its lyrics by the performers that have covered it this is quite a song.  Let me give you a partial list of the artists who have recorded it: Frankie Lane, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Sara Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan.  Willie Nelson did a great version.  I’m biased towards writers but I think it’s the lyrics that carried this tune to its popularity.

Lucky Old Sun
Up in the morning
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun
Ain’t got nothin to do
Roll around heaven all day

Fuss with my woman
Toil for my kids
Sweat till I’m am wrinkled and gray
But that lucky old sun
Ain’t got nothin to do
Roll around heaven all day

Dear lord above
Can’t you see I’m cryin'
Tears are in my eyes
Send down a cloud with a silver lining
Take me to paradise

Show me that river
Lead me across
And take all my troubles away
Like the lucky old sun
I’ll have nothin' to do
Roll around heaven all day

I hope Willie played that song and my friend enjoyed it without an inkling of what life had in store for him in the near future. We just don’t know, do we?  All we can do is relax, live well, and enjoy life while we have it. 

Take care of yourselves.  Please.

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is, "WOW"--powerful stuff! Life is tenuous. I'm glad you are taking the time to experience retirement at its fullest. (and I'm glad your friends and family will have all this sage advise through your writings)