It has become almost instinctual in today’s world: I was sitting on the patio, noticed how I seemed to be looking at a perfect November image, then reached in my pocket for my phone and captured half a dozen shots.
One of them, I thought, had to be in focus.
Sure enough, I got inside, put one of them up on a 42-inch monitor, and it was as memories go, an instant classic. The fall colors of the leaves on the ground are among my favorite. My dog Maggie, ever the camera hog with a sixth sense for media, is staring right at me. The fountain in the pond was at peak height.
Just what I wanted.
Yet as I continued looking at it, I saw something else. It was not only a great fall picture, but when I thought about it some more, it turned out to be a picture of me being totally content.
Which is highly unusual.
Over the years we all get up every morning, go to work, deal with pressure and stress, and never really think about the end goal. We’re doing it because we have to do it to survive, as I use to sit on airplanes and fly all over the country, dead tired, thinking I have to work this hard to get to what I want later in life.
What is that, an annoying voice in my head used to ask.
I don’t know, I’d think. But I’ll know it when I see it.
This year I turned 67, and the world is becoming a scarier place more and more each day between wars, pandemics, inflation and global unrest. The notion of retiring into a blissful state of contentment without a care in the world has become more fantasy than anything else every time I look at the news.
But on this cold 27-degree morning, I found myself bundled up with a hot cup of coffee in front of me. I love the fall and it was in all of its colorful glory. I thought about how my daughter got married a month ago and they seem very happy. Or my wife of 43 years sleeping in, enjoying every minute of it.
Ever the sports fan, I thought about how Virginia Tech’s football team seems to have ended its race to the bottom and now has given me hope. Men’s and women’s basketball starts Monday and I plan on watching every game for both since I have a lot of free times and a lot of televisions to go with that.
Maggie is my constant companion and stares back at me all the time to make sure everything’s OK and that I’m not eating something and not sharing it with her. The sounds from a water fountain hitting a small pond remind me of the little machines I used to buy and play in countless hotel rooms to have something soothing in the background so I could get to sleep.
I should note that the real thing, live, with hot coffee on a cold morning at your own home is much better.
I mention all this because in previous years I’ve tried to provide guidance to many a young person, and the conversation always starts out with “what do you want out of life?” The answer always comes back “I don’t know,” then I usually say “then you need to work as hard as you can at what you have to do so one day you can have the means to do what you want to do.”
I never mention “oh and by the way, I have no idea what I specifically want out of life either.” You’re just sort of indoctrinated into a work hard and all will work out mentality from the time you’re 7 years old in my generation, and it’s hard to shake. My biggest challenge in my first year of retirement was accepting I wasn’t a lazy sloth sitting around doing nothing, as I even started getting up at 7 AM instead of 8 AM because I felt guilty sleeping the day away. The need to work, despite what the good folks at Social Security think, was not ready to retire.
Then you wake up one day to mornings like this. I’m not rich, I’m not famous, I’m not really anything other than an old man who fills his days writing, watching sports and cooking. At the age of 25 as I was plotting to take over the world, the thought that this would be the end goal would have seemed kind of silly.
But I’ve been blessed, and what I’ve apparently been working for my whole life showed up this morning.
As proof, I even have a picture of it 🙂