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Second childhood better than the first

Published February 23. 2013 09:02AM

Last week, a beautifully written letter to the editor in the TIMES NEWS caught my attention.

The male writer extolled the virtues of letting life come to a standstill and just sitting still to inhale the beauty of life. He said he did that by pulling a chair outside then sitting quietly to appreciate the beauty of the snow scene.

He called it "enjoying his second childhood."

That resonates with me in a major way because I've been living my second childhood for six years. I'm enjoying it so much that my daily prayer is that I don't have to stop any time soon.

For me and for many others, retirement is a chance for a second childhood.

You remember the perks of childhood, don't you?

Do you remember how free you felt to have the entire day to yourself, doing whatever claimed your interest?

Remember when one of your favorite activities was "doing nothing?" You could sit there and poke a stick around in the dirt or watch the flight of a bumblebee. Or, you could lie on your back and watch the clouds drift by.

Can you remember when you didn't have to feel guilty about "doing nothing?" Think back to a time when you didn't have a "to do list" in the back of your mind and you didn't feel guilty if you weren't doing something productive.

Once we leave childhood behind, we leave those perks behind. Sadly, we also leave behind the spontaneity we had as children.

Can you remember your childhood when you had no inhibitions about approaching a newcomer and you didn't need an appointment to have fun with a friend? Remember when you simply stood outside a house and yelled: "Hey Carol, come out to play."

Ahhhh, play!

Remember play?

By necessity, play gets buried by jobs, by duties and by obligations. As adults, we have little time to play and when we do have a little free time, we're content if we can only put our feet up for a few minutes before we go on to our next chore.

Retirement changes all that. It's a second chance to rediscover the simple joys of being alive.

One of the simple joys of childhood I'm enjoying now is riding a bike. My husband always keeps our bikes in the back of his van so we can bike whenever the whim strikes.

I love the freedom of having the wind licking my face and seeing more of the world from a bike.

When my friend Kay see me on a bike, she cringes. "Some day," she says, "you'll start acting your age."

I don't know exactly what "acting your age" means. But I do think it's highly over rated.

On occasion, my fashion-conscious daughter will tell me, "You can't wear scoop necks after a certain age," or, "Sleeveless tops aren't flattering after a certain age."

She's too young to know that "after a certain age," we stop worrying about what people think.

It's so freeing to throw away mental constrictions and preconceived notions about what we should or should not do.

My only problem is that I want to do too much. There's a big world out there called "the great outdoors" and it's a magical playground that keeps calling me.

The other day my superactive husband told me he thought he was going to "take some time off because he's on the go day and night."

I just smiled, knowing what would come next.

Sure enough, that day Dave and I went to a county-sponsored pickleball demonstration where we were invited to try a new sport that's sweeping the county. It's a cross between tennis and ping pong suitable to all ages.

We loved it. Now, we're going to beginners' pickleball on Mondays, trying to squeeze one more activity into our crammed calendar.

Don't get me wrong. It's not all run, run, play, play. Often, living my second childhood involves doing nothing except sitting on my lanai watching the ducks swim by, or watching the birds at our backyard feeder.

I do that every day and each time I say a prayer of two words: Thank you.

Thank you for this beautiful world.

Thank you for this time of life.

Not everyone understands my version of a second childhood. I went to a meeting the other day where most of us had not seen each other for months. We went around the table answering the question: What have you been up to since we last met?

When it was my turn, I smiled and said I was enjoying every minute of my second childhood boating, biking, kayaking, dancing, taking new classes and just enjoying life.

My answer was greeted with silence. People just stared at me. I don't know why.

My friend Kay says it's because most retirees still have obligations and responsibilities. They don't have time for other things.

This week I bought an extra ticket and invited her along to see a theater production in our community center. She said she didn't have time to go.

"By the time I cook dinner, do the dishes, do the wash, straighten the house and walk the dogs, I'm exhausted," she said. "I don't have time for what you call play."

Retirement is a second chance to enjoy life. It's our last chance.

That's probably why living a second childhood is even more precious than the first.

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