Sunday, February 09, 2014

Defeating Boredom in Retirement

Yesterday, I finally realised my problem ... I'm dying, not from old age or any identified disease, but from boredom. I guess it doesn't really matter what we die from, we were only ever promised three score years and ten and found out that it was a lie. People die at all ages.

Visit Vancouver and do some beer tasting
The key to dying is to have a "healthy death". That is, be rolling along in a healthy state and have a massive stroke or cardiac failure that ends one's life. Far better than lingering along with a dodgy ticker or getting more and more bored and eventually falling off one's perch.

Death is inconvenient because it comes when we least expect it and probably don't want it. I say probably don't want it because I'm sure I will get so disheartened with the state of the world and Australia that I'll be pleased that I'm only visiting. When I see my friends die and wish it had been me, I'll know it's time to get my stuff in order. So far, so good.

But, back to boredom. I tell my grandson that boredom is a state of mind, that there are no uninteresting subjects, just disinterested people. I don't know that I believe what I say, but I do try to practise it. Every morning when I arise from a usually disruptive, unfulfilling sleep, feeling like I've just reached the end of my day and need to go to bed, I decide that today will be a good day and I will be positive. Then I make the fatal mistake of switching on the news. Blah!

So, if you have the positive attitude, what do you do to alleviate the boredom?

First of all, you have to find out what are the reasons you are bored. That's not rocket science. There you were, arising early each morning, showering and shaving, getting dressed and heading off to work. If you were lucky you had a job that was interesting most of the time and provided at least a tad of self-esteem and status for you. You got paid a wad of money every so often, socialised with a variety of other people. There was perhaps even some eye candy you could look at and perhaps fantasize about (if only they weren't young enough to be your daughter). Most of all, you managed to fill in a substantial part of your day with the minutia of work.

When you retire, you have all day to do nothing. But you realise that the same things that kept you motivated while at work may work when retired. Okay, so you've gone from being the CEO of some impressive multinational company, or perhaps a cleaner at the local school. Either way, you are now nobody and the damn housework still needs to be done most days; vacuuming, mopping, dusting, washing dishes, washing clothes, hanging them out to dry. You still have to eat so someone has to buy food, prepare it, cook it and then clean up. Now, instead of having a team of underlings to get your coffee, send your faxes, put petrol in the company car, you're "it." And the worst bit is that you don't get paid. You are now attached by the hip to your superannuation account or if you are really unlucky, to a government pension that hardly provides enough for you to eat,let alone pay for holidays or a new car when your 1993 Toyota finally chucks it in.

By now, if you have made any spiritual progress in life, you've realised that there is no one who looks down from heaven and looks after you and the other seven billion people on the planet. You know you are on your own no matter how hard you wish it were otherwise. You also know that nature doesn't give a rat's bootlace what happens to you or anything or anybody else; she just goes on her own way creating and destroying universes and worlds as she has for eternity.

None of this helps you to find someone else to fix up your problem, you are all on your own. Survive or die from boredom.

The key is to keep busy ... fill in the empty hours with some type of activity. Anything you find interesting and can afford. Try to fill your calendar with so much stuff you haven't got time to think of being bored or dying from boredom.

Merlin the Magician, in the "Sword in the Stone" (TH White, 1938) said, "The best thing for being sad is to learn something. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins. The best thing for it then is to learn something."

Change "sad" for "bored" and you have a partial solution. Learn something.

With all the free time you have after you do your chores, you can enrol in that 10 week Asian cooking class. You can volunteer somewhere where your help is needed. Get yourself a friend who you can meet for coffee, card games, or anything else that appeals to both of you. Take up a new hobby ... something you had always wanted to do, but didn't because work got in the way. Play golf. Play tennis. Ride a bike. Take up beer tasting, collect watches or wine, do something.

Merlin was part right. Learning something new is part of the solution. The real solution however, is to keep yourself so busy you haven't got time to be bored. Retirement, if you are lucky, is a second chance at life. It's time to do all those things you haven't previously had the opportunity to do. Okay, so scuba diving or sky diving may be a bit difficult with your crook back, high blood-pressure and arthritic legs, but there is still many other options.

Instead of sitting around waiting to get sick and die, get out and make the best of the last years of your life. For all you know, it may be the only life you'll have.