On a recent hot, summer, weekday night, I found myself with an eclectic group partying in some (to my mind) unusual ways. The tv was playing a yoga video, a guy was playing with a karaoke mike, and a clique was in the corner in earnest conversation nibbling on the raw, organic, vegan fare. After integrating myself with some casual conversation, I settled in to enjoy the festivities. In my experience of partying over many decades, parties generally are of two types; loud music and dancing or conversational. This night I encountered a party of the twenty-first century with today’s young generation. An entertainment revue was about to begin. First, a young, fit guy got out on the floor portrayed Beyonce’s writhing to a tee, then another chubby guy with his hair in a sumo wrestler knot tears off his shirt and simulates sex with the Beyonce impersonator. They are followed by a super athletic dude in a re-creation of his not so distance high school break dancing days. Everyone was encouraged to jump up and show their stuff in the center. All were applauded with great enthusiasm.
I was invited to this party of twenty somethings by a young acquaintance. My first reaction when he invited me was to beg off. After all he is much younger than me, what kind of a party is happening on Monday night, and besides I have to get home to MSNBC after my regular meditation group meeting. I noticed as I considered going, that I had a host of excuses to stay in my narrow, comfortable routine. I could sit on my recliner and imagine what I missed but I would have been way off base. I pushed off the shore of my safe harbor and dipped my big toe in the water and went to the party. It was a new and unique experience for me. Was it my kind of party? No. Am I glad I attended? YES.
Caution, planning, research all have their place in building a new life after retirement, but one element that gets little attention is the comfort zone. By the time one retires, he/ she has built up a debris basin filled with detritus from a whole range of experiences ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ Wary of wasting time, it is easy to be conservative and not go out to new places or make friends or learn new skills. Those attitudes preserve one’s safety and comfort but must not allowed to be the prime directive of a newly unencumbered life. Security and routine have their place and when they become the only place it is joy killing. Novelty excites. Remember the first time you saw the Grand Canyon or fell in love. Very different events but they both are infused with novelty and the unknown. Security concerns grow as we age but the most exciting old people I know are into new stuff. Not what they have done for forty years. Put outdated and fulfilling habits in the dustbin of your history. Take a stand for the new and unknown.
Not everything tried and true need be off loaded. I have an old friend from high school who says he doesn’t want new friends. Of course, keep the old friends, if there is still life there. But this guy wants to control the upset in his life and there is a price. He doesn’t have to stretch and feel the anxiety of the unknown but in the stretch of getting to know new people we end up growing and experiencing the excitement of the new. It may be in an inter generational friendship or perhaps in a completely new activity such as learning to play a musical instrument. Conscious change keeps the brain and the spirit growing. Keeping the brain active is recommended to stave off age related Alzheimer’s, depression, and myriad other age related conditions.
These days when I am in doubt, rather than defer to the predictable and comfortable I say yes. Take a chance, go to the new place, call potential dates, write a blog, paint a picture, and take a class. All of these actions are adventures into the unknown that I have pursued in the quest of a full tilt life. When I am on the fence, if there is no strong no I just say yes. Then the magic of the unknown can manifest. Is it always good, successful, or fun? Absolutely not. I recall a recent trip to a beautiful Caribbean island in the off season that was a major letdown. Nothing to do and very few fellow tourists but I did gain a friend in Australia with whom I am in regular contact. Any new thing I do I always learn something about the place, the activity, and or myself. Facing the end of the timeline of this life ought to be enough impetus to Leap before Looking. Don’t just think about it, do it and excitement and tension can build. Who will be there? What will happen? And if it doesn’t turn out to be exciting, at the very least you got the energy moving towards the fresh and new. Pushing into the unknown prevents the calcification of emotional arteries and keeps the energy flowing. Riding that flow is adventure. Time is getting shorter, the body is getting more aches, and the bucket list of life is happening right now. My prescription: At least once per day, take one action without analyzing, planning, and preparing. Just Leap and then Look.