I haven’t written in a month. Not for lack of time. Time is one commodity I have in excess as a dark and rainy winter descends on Paris.
Yet while time has not been the issue, I’ve never been more aware, in the broader context, that time is both limited and inadequate. Which is why I’ve spent much of the last month, the last year in fact, in introspection. I believe in the value of setting a framework for life, plotting a course. Even when that course appears, to some, directionless.
Specific goals are a piece of that, both the bane and benefit of a 32-year career with IBM. Without goals, I fritter away so much of that single most precise commodity: time. And yes, I am by nature a fritterer.
Also, this month we went to Morocco. Seated between Pat and my son Ryan on the flight home, I swore off all emerging world travel.
Then I got sick. Very sick.
And I told Pat, “I’m done traveling. I’ve had enough of this crap.” Something which I meant in that moment both literally and figuratively. As my health deteriorated, I further reduced all future travel to three countries: France, Italy, and the United States.
My thought process was simple: If I’m going to die traveling, I want my last meal to be exceptional.
As we approach a new year, it’s a perfect time for all of us to establish some goals. For me, I am also approaching a new decade, my 7th. And by the end of this month, I will have exceeded the time allotted my mother on this earth, a fact which makes me wonder how I ever found comfort in the cliché, “At least she lived a long life.”
But the act of goal setting can be immobilizing. So let’s get started.
First, I had to decide what role writing would play in my goals. And the short answer is, very little. Before my retirement, I set a goal to have one piece published in a meaningful place, preferable on paper. I’m counting this goal as done. A next goal could be to write a book, but it won’t be. While I enjoy writing, I don’t love it enough to devote that much of my remaining life to it.
Next, we’ve decided to stay in Paris, at least for the moment. I continue to ponder what I want from home, and while I’m closer to that answer, I’m not there yet. Paris won’t be our permanent home, but it is our current home.
These previous two paragraphs, no more than 100 words, inadequately reflect the extensive time put into those decisions.
But they do set up the discussion of what’s next.
I’m going to focus my 60s on health and home.
If I consider what’s going to make my 70s–or (gasp!!) my 80s–the best they can be, it’s my ability to move. To that end, I’ve set some measureable (and unmeasurable) goals. Some involve my weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Let’s skip past those.
For twenty years, I’ve been a faithful reader of Runner’s World. Yet for 20 years, I never actually ran anyplace. That has recently changed. In April, I will run a 5K in the greater Philly area. My goal, eventually, is to win my age group. This will require one of three things to happen: I improve substantially. I outlive my peer group thus nailing the ‘age 90 and up’ gold medal. Or I find a very slow 5k. I’m giving myself considerable latitude on this goal.
For my 60th birthday, I received an Apple Watch. With this as a measurement device, I’ve paced out a 5K in my neighborhood and established a baseline time. Those mornings, when I used to be writing in the café, I will now be loping along Richard Lenoir to the Bastille and back. Twice.
There’s lots of tangential fitness goals: To bike the Burgundy Canal. To hike the Tour du Mont Blanc. And the Colorado Trail. You get the idea.
Then, I considered my brain health. If I were breathless walking upstairs, I would take action. Perhaps join a gym. But when I feel forgetful, I freeze. I grow helpless. Afraid. Yet research has shown that brain health is, to some extent, in each of our control. Last week, I returned to French class. It’s an advanced intermediate level.
This is the brain equivalent of a 90-minute aerobics class—one with a snappy name like Warrior Fitness Bootcamp. My brain leaves class exhausted. And I leave dejected. Second language learning should be left behind on the playground, in a world of childish bodies and pliable minds. Or maybe it shouldn’t.
I have lots of other items on my list. Random things. I’ve started sketching and want to keep a sketch journal next year. One sketch per week, most often done at a café while I while away another morning of not writing.
I plan to begin a yoga class. And take a wine appreciation course.
Then this morning I woke up and told Pat, “I think I want to return to Morocco next year.” My plan is to fly into Tangier on a one-way ticket and book two nights in a hotel there. After that, we will move as we fancy and return home to our whim.
Some of the best courses, it turns out, actually are directionless.
Pat replied, “I’m in.”