Monday, April 29, 2013
Last Wednesday afternoon found me seated in the front row at the Centerville Historical Museum. I had come with a friend to hear Daniel Klein, a visiting author, speak about his book "Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes". I had not read the book nor had I ever heard of Daniel Klein. I was soon to learn about both and grew fond of the author within moments after he began his talk. His words about philosophy and his notes on life, especially his own, were so beautifully interwoven.
I've been thinking about something that Daniel talked about and have already found it to be useful in my life and, perhaps in the lives of others with whom I have shared it. As he spoke about the process of growing old, he made some salient points......
We need to slow down, especially as we age
Now is not the time for goal-setting
We should no longer be striving for anything
Does this sound like a man who is giving up? If you stopped right here, you might think so. But, before us was a man in his early seventies, who clearly has not given up. After all, he was talking about his latest book, autographing copies, greeting the people who came out to hear him and buy a book. He is very much alive, actively engaged in his life and by no means what one might call a washed up old man. So, how did I interpret what he was saying......
It's okay to slow down. The Italians and inhabitants of the other Mediterranean countries know that and they make living slow an art form. I have a few problems of my own related to this. I spent many years of my life rushing, needed always to feel as if I were producing something of value. I still have that feeling and still wonder if it's okay to sit down to write or to read a book, for no "reason" other than pleasure. I think it very funny that years ago, I taught relaxation techniques. Albeit, they were associated with "work", in my case, the work I was preparing my students for was childbirth. I was, and still believe I am, a subject matter expert on the art of attaining full relaxation through a progressive set of exercises.
Goal setting? As one of my friends recently said, "my goal is to get up breathing every morning". That person got it. I had years of corporate life. My job as the Lead Occupational Health Specialist for one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, was considered to be a plum. While there were many perks, there were also a fair share of down-siders, not least of all, the annual setting of the goals that accompanied the annual review. They don't call this "Velvet Hell" for nothing. I've set all the goals I'm ever going to set and I agree with Daniel Klein. All those goals in my life have led me to this time in my life, the time when I meet my own expectations and do my own performance reviews, realizing that "good enough" really is.
Finally, this resistance to "striving". That can be a hard-sell. Aren't we, as decent human beings, always supposed to be striving to be better? Better at what? I am the best I'm ever going to be. I'm not, at my age or anytime after, going to "become" anything so I think it is time to agree with my inners and assume that the time has come to use all of those things that in the past I have "striven" for, and to be the person I set my goals at being. What could I be waiting for? This is the now that I had wondered about when it was time to get things all neat and tidy. I come here, to where I am, with an arm load of the skills that I have as a result of having met my goals and my annual performance review is looking like an "Exceeds Expectations" this year.