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Decisions, decisions…

by | Jul 10, 2022

Life is a series of decisions.

The choices you make change over time and are always plentiful. Things we agonized over in our youth seem minor in hindsight. I worried about missing a grocery store shift to see Bruce Springsteen. I should have given more thought to saving a few bucks each pay so I’d be able to make more well-reasoned decisions later on.

(Ok, I should have given that a lot more thought for the next 40+ years too.)

Later, there were decisions to be made about relationships, family, career, housing – it often felt like a constant onslaught of life-changing problem-solving. You believe you need to get every answer right the first time or your entire life will be down the toilet.

Over time, you find out it’s ok to learn from your mistakes. The car that seemed like a good idea, but were still paying for after you replaced it? Maybe don’t do that again. Buying a television by equal monthly payments? I paid how much for that TV? It didn’t even have a remote!

You live, you learn, try not to make the same mistakes again, but you just make different mistakes. Rinse and repeat. The main lesson you learn is you are likely going to outlast most of your mistakes. Sure, there are mistakes that can kill you – but those are usually about a moment of carelessness, not a well thought out decision that you made.

And yes, everyone has a few decisions they can look back on and realize they just plain screwed up. Whoever says they will die without regrets has let someone else do their problem-solving. Maybe they regret that decision.

Your prime decision-making years occur in the same window as your working years. As you near retirement, you hope to finish strong on your decision-making and planning. When I’m retired, I want to face as few decisions as possible and just let the wind carry me along.

Of course, this plan requires a lot of decisions be crammed into my pre-retirement time. I’ve been busy making decisions about post-retirement housing, pension, vehicle, consulting opportunities…

But one decision lingers.

Do I go “full curmudgeon”?

I’m assuming that most people eventually have a strategy on this. Some retirees really embrace it.  I can remember the older neighbours of my childhood seeming quite cranky about me sneaking an apple from their tree or playing catch with friends on the street.

But what if I don’t have non-related kids in my yard to yell at? I once yelled at a neighbour at my apple tree, but I was actually yelling, “THERE ARE SO MANY APPLES THIS YEAR. TAKE AS MANY AS YOU CAN CARRY!”

My yelling at the Canada Geese (or, if you prefer, gooses) in the front yard is a very different tone, and sometimes includes banging a shovel with a metal pipe. They poop all over my yard. Even the cute fuzzy little ones, that inevitably grow into the loud, boorish adults that argue with me as I chase them off the lawn. They don’t even like each other. Can’t say I blame them. They’re flying, honking, arseholes.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m never cantankerous. Hoo boy, I can shout at the clouds with the best of them, but only the threatening ones. Who yells at the bright, happy clouds? (There’s a meme for that.) However, I’m much more likely to be yelling at the TV about the rise of sports betting ads and that no, crypto currency isn’t real money, no matter what Ponzi scheme celebrities are trying to sell us.

I get angry at hypocrisy and bullshit. But progress? Progress is good. Are non-fungible tokens really progress? Haha, no. Nice try.

So, getting irritated with progressive social and fiscal policies is just not my thing. I ask myself,

  1. Does this really hurt anyone?
  2. Does this make life better for someone who hasn’t had the same rights as me?
  3. Really? You really think this hurts you personally? Really??

So, irrational irritation at progress is also out for me.

Now, irrational irritation at some things, I can certainly do. That making a heart shape thing with your hands? That annoys me. Don’t know why. Just does. The word “fam”. Are TV ad copy writers so busy that they can’t write family? And has the word “quickly” completely disappeared from the English language? Apparently it’s been replaced by “fast”. How was that decided? Same for TV reporters saying “incidences” when they mean “incidents”. Did you lose your Oxford dictionary?

If you don’t have a list of irrational irritations, you’re really missing out. You’re either in a complete state of denial, or you’ve got an incredibly boring inner life filled with only the sound of crickets. Embrace the little things that irk you. Explain them to others. Watch their confused faces. It’s priceless.

Another option is to become a contrarian, but it just seems like so much work. “Oh no, someone expressed an opinion on social media and I must immediately disagree because one small aspect of it doesn’t fit the narrative in my head.”

It’s gotta be exhausting. No wonder they always looked tired and angry. Nope, not how I want to spend my golden years.

I’m not likely to suddenly take a Luddite approach to technology so I can be angry about that. Sure, the sheer number of devices in my life can be a little overwhelming. As I type this, I’m in Cape Breton for meetings, and locked out of my cell phone. Do I miss it? Based on how many times a day I’m reaching for it, apparently so. However, I have my laptop, a couple of good books, and my camera. I’m surviving just fine. I’ve gone from manual typewriters to smart phones within my lifetime and you bet I’m going to make sure I have high-speed internet available with my morning coffee. Funny cat videos require reliable bandwidth.

I do worry about things – climate change, housing affordability for my kids, fascists, the switch to a fixed income. Do I want to worry full time? Nah, that kind of focus is too much for me. I can’t even play a board game without mentally drifting away.

I prefer to be happy. When I was in my early twenties, I called a radio psychic. She’d told the previous callers positive messages about what was coming in their lives, but she told me I was an incredibly bitter person.

(What the hell?? Seriously, radio psychics are the absolute worst. To Hell with them!)

Turns out she was wrong. Maybe I was more angry then, but I got over it. (Maybe radio psychics just randomly pick one caller to project their true feelings about their mother on.) I’m too optimistic to settle for so much pessimism. The daily preparation for a constantly grim perspective on life seems like a job that I’m unlikely to hold for long. Things work out more often than they don’t, but I put the work in, either way.

In the end, I feel like so many of these options just aren’t me. Curmudgeon, contrarian, constantly pessimistic complainer…none of them fit me.

Maybe thinking about the options just teaches me what I don’t want to become. I’m not going to be afraid of change, angry at the world, bitter about the journey here, and disagreeable with others.

But there’s still going to be yelling at the TV over something irrational. I am not giving that up. They can pry my irrational irritation from my cold, dead, un-heart-shaped hands.

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Brad Dale
Brad Dale

Dad to daughters. Daideo to Sprocket and Spark. Makes his wife laugh. Chief cook and bottle tilter. Proud owner of two sheds. Prefers looking through a lens, reading off paper, music over silence, movement over meditation. If there’s a hereafter, he hopes it has a waterfront view, nice lineup of cordless tools and a well-stocked workshop. Send feedback to:

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