Know Your Own Bone
When to retire, not fighting your nature, and the beauty of yoga pants
Editor’s Note: Have a question about that sketchy looking mole on your back? Ask your dermatologist. (Matt has watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy, but is not a medical professional.) For all other questions, Ask Matt® at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Double Question – an Ask Matt first!)
I plan to retire from the proverbial rat race later this year. I have buddies who have preceded me down this road who are bored *#^tless and feel they’ve lost all worth, while others say they are happy and living every minute to the max. What gives? Any pearls before I take the leap?
I believe that working is a source of dignity and virtue. If that's true, and even if it isn't, why should one stop when one hits a certain chronological age?
Ahhh yes, retirement. That great luxury of the Silent Generation and Boomers. That bane of us Gen X’ers, or as our elders think of us: the bottom of the pyramid scheme. By the time I’m eligible for it, I probably have as good a chance of seeing the Social Security I paid into my entire life as I do the next Transit of Venus. (The latter won’t reoccur until December of 2117, meaning I have a scheduling conflict since I’ll be dirt-napping.) And at the rate that inflation is currently gobbling up my IRA’s value, I’ll likely be working either until I’m 90 (if Jesus hasn’t told me to hit the showers by then), or until The Algorithm replaces me, so that you can Ask AI Matt, who will hopefully have a sunnier disposition.
But this isn’t about me, this is about you deliberating quitters. And since I’m not yet there myself, all I know is what I see in front of me. (So I guess we are back to me – that didn’t take long.) After a life of hard work and three different careers, my septuagenarian father retired a few years ago, and he’s happier than a Kardashian in a hall of mirrors. He’s in better shape now than when he was in his fifties. He walks six or seven miles every other day, usually with his shirt off, to soak up some Vitamin D while giving the neighborhood ladies a senior-snack-for-the-eyes. He fusses over his yard like he’s getting paid by the eradicated weed. He watches lots of Fox News, so he knows what to blame Joe Biden for. (Hint: everything.) He sends entertaining YouTube videos to his friends, and inspirational-advice emails to his grandkids. (They don’t read their email, but we don’t have the heart to tell him.) In short, he’s a great retiree. He misses alarm clocks, and commutes, and riding a desk about as much as you’d miss a kidney stone.
My mom, on the other hand, retired a few years ago from the college where she’s worked for over 30 years. She thought she’d love having nothing to do and/or having to do nothing, but got antsy and angsty, and went back to work about ten months later. Perhaps the silence was too loud. Or maybe my dad was, while yelling at TV’s Neil Cavuto for being a RINO. Whatever the case, sometimes a plough horse has to keep ploughing. It’s what they were born to do. Not that I’m calling my mom a Clydesdale. (Sorry, Mom – some sloppy metaphor-work there.)
The object lesson here, I guess, is to know yourself before making a drastic life-altering move. So much of the self-improvement literature – if “literature” isn’t too strong a word for it – involves fighting your own nature. I suppose we have to fight our nature for a reason, sometimes. If I didn’t a little, I might sleep until noon each day, then spend the rest of it fishing until dark. Bills would go unpaid. Relationships would be neglected. My wife might take up with the UPS guy, which would really hurt me, since that yutz keeps leaving packages behind my rear tire in the driveway, no matter how many times I request that he leave them on the porch.
But I’m also a Thoreau guy at heart. And so I believe in his maxim: “Simplify, simplify.” Or as he’d have put it if he’d taken his own advice: “Simplify.” We have a lot in this world to fight against already: illness, penury, each other. Why fight ourselves when we don’t have to? As Thoreau also wrote, “Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” So if you can afford it, and it makes you happy to shirk all responsibility – if you feel like you’re enduring life instead of living it, and that you’re spending all your days watching the clock even as time becomes a scarcer resource - I say have at retirement. And if you feel useful and fulfilled staying behind the plough, do so with no shame in your game. It’s not like student-loan-debt-laden Millennials and Zoomers need your job, or to free up your salary hole. They can just live in your basement until you croak, and then sell off your house so they can someday afford to retire, too.
Bonus Yoga Pose: Since modern life has grown sort of ugly, I often attempt to fill this bonus space with beautiful things, be it music or photos, whatever strikes me. But to my thinking – and you’ll forgive my male-pig objectifying here – there are few things as beautiful as women in yoga pants. But this is not some random hot yoga pants photo. This is one of my readers.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece on Insta-bitionists, or how celebrities, particularly those over age 50, were constantly inflicting their Instagram-sexuality on us. Which prompted Dee Dee Chumley to remark in my comments section: “For my past two birthdays, I’ve posted a pic of my newest yoga trick on Facebook. I was planning to do the same this year for my 72nd birthday. After reading your article, I questioned the wisdom of this. I gave the matter serious thought and have decided to follow through with my plan.”
I didn’t hold this against Dee Dee – I’m used to reader spite. But why should Mark Zuckerberg be the beneficiary? He’s a criminal and a pervert. So I taunted Chumley to put up or shut up, telling her that if she gave me her yoga photo, I’d post it here. Dee Dee’s daughter, God love her, had bought Dee Dee a Slack Tide gift subscription for Christmas, of which she was generous enough to say: “I’m really enjoying it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving – even better than the Jelly-of-the-Month Club.”
So with no further ado, here’s Dee Dee.
Keep in mind, before Dee Dee started reading Slack Tide just two months ago, she weighed 375 lbs, and her daily fried-chicken-and-vodka-milkshakes diet limited her mobility. The only exercise she got was searching for the remote control under all the empty Entenmann’s boxes. Now, she’s a perfect physical specimen – at age 72! – doing a faultless Side Tree pose. Is Slack Tide some sort of mysterious fountain of youth? Don’t ask Matt, ask Dee Dee.
WWDDD? What would Dee Dee do? She’d subscribe now.