Editor’s Comment: I’m honored to be on the private email list of a wonderful writer named Carll Tucker. After ramping and selling a successful chain of community newspapers, Carll founded The Daily Voice, one of the first internet local news outlets. Think of your community newspaper accessed online, right down to classifieds, obits and council meeting reports. He’s also published an entertaining journey book, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”, enjoyably recounting his search for US Vice Presidents’ gravesites while rethinking his life. The missive I’m sharing nicely defines my own view of life at age 66 plus this marvelous quote about the demands of great wealth: Had we ten times the wealth we’d have fewer investable moments – because great wealth makes great demands. Enjoy.
Sociability is among the fresh challenges of retirement. We have family – and friends – some dear as family – and so-called “free time” (but what does that mean? Free from? Free to? Is freedom freedom if you don’t know what to do with it? Another for my arm’s-length topic list) – and gluttony for music, plays, movies – and travel – yes! – and to be in the city – and the country – and afar. And Jane has her AARP column and book and I my missives and writing practice (4 hours, at least, daily, 8 my exultant max) and, well, we’re not idle, that’s certain, but how to spend this depleting treasure, invest it, you might say, for the optimal return? Had we ten times the wealth we’d have fewer investable moments – because great wealth makes great demands. Rich friends have many friends who aren’t friends but insist on proximity even so. Jane and I do not fault our really rich friends for being really rich but refuse to remand them to privilege ghettos, those gilded cages in which they are ceaselessly gawked.
Jane and I are lucky, no question. I’m the luckier because I have Jane and Jane only has me. Luck, though, is no freebie. It costs more, in its way, than misfortune, which keeps you occupied. Emergencies cram both calendars and crania. Empty calendars may induce anxiety: Why am I here, what does life mean, anyway? – etc.
Plan your work and work your plan, I once tediously intoned to teammates (management by bromide). “Plan your retirement”’s no less plausive (OED, meaning 2). Jove’s lavished me with treasure, but he’s watching what I make of it. Am I making the most?
Lots of people, if they can afford it, buy pre-packaged retirements: gated communities, cruise ships, and the like. They sign on to drift pleasantly into the sunset. They may insist, if quizzed, they’ve earned this indolence.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but nothing right with it either. It’s the opt-out box – I can’t see you Tuesday I’ve got Sudoku! Jane and I (and most of you guys in our age cohort) work at life: we’d rather select than slough the challenge of selection.
To triage choices, you need guiding principles: what’s your definition of success? Some people rate comfort an ample objective. Ease, alas, makes me uneasy. Nothing so stresses me as the absence of stress.
Popularity is another popular goal. Everybody loves me! I confess, I hate being hated and love being loved (as these missives intimate), but “helluva guy” strikes me as a woefully inadequate epitaph.
I used to slaver after reputation. Montaigne let me have it. “Is it reasonable to make the life of man depend on the judgment of idiots?” Then, quoting Cicero: “Can anything be more stupid than to value collectively those whom we despise as individuals?”
All answers failed but one: love. I love to love: this instant, you, the gifts out this window or from a stage, the poignancy of evanescence. Love is beautiful and beauty is love, for what is beauty but a gift, like Kai’s and Juno’s bright drawings, made radiant by intent? Why should Shakespeare have bothered to make his plays so good? For box-office receipts? Sure, hits are preferable to flops. But he might have made more money if he’d loved us less, longed less to bequeath us his all.
Love takes work. Jane and I think of those we love and try to please them. Your smiles are my payday. Play for me is never casual but squeezing the most of our moment, like a lemon, to its last stubborn drop.