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Tuning Up

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Taking on a creative challenge makes retirement more satisfying.

Posted September 17, 2012



Music has been an important part of my life. I played piano and clarinet as a youngster. Then, my career in radio meant music 24/7 for almost 35 years. If you are ever in a trivia contest about hits from the 60s-80’s call me. I can name that song in 3 notes.

But, somewhere along the way, well before my satisfying retirement started, I stopped making music. Playing records and hanging out with artists was fun, but wasn’t particularly creative. Playing a 45 single on the radio isn’t quite the same as playing the song. So, a few years ago I picked up a used acoustic guitar and started teaching myself the basics. I was able to play Christmas songs for the grandkids and a few Beatle tunes for my own enjoyment. But, I’d always get to a certain point and stall. I couldn’t figure out things like finger picking or second position on my own.

I finally decided I should take some lessons to get me over the hump. Reader Chuck shared how much taking some lessons did for him; he now plays in an oldies group on weekends. That isn’t my goal, but getting past my personal roadblock is.

So, a few weeks agoI started taking once-a-week lessons.My teacher, Kurt, is probably 25 years my junior, but patient and supportive. While teaching myselfI developed some bad habits that I need to lose. My 63 year old fingers and tendons are rebelling against the stretching needed for certain chords. I have to look at chord charts more often thanI thinkI should. When playing the melody I mistake the 4th string for the 3rd string much too often.

But, I persevere. My goals are modest: play well enough for personal enjoyment. If a family gathering would benefit from my version of Yesterday, then I should be able to comply but I am really playing for me. Unlike previous attempts, though, I am not comfortable getting to a certain point and stopping any growth. I will likely take lessons for two months and thenstop for awhile to get a solid grip on what I have learned. At that point I hope I have the self discipline to take another month or two of instruction to push me to the next level.

It is true: when you pay someone for lessons the amount of practice time increases and the desire to not embarrass yourselfis real. Having Kurt check me out every Wednesday afternoon and give me a new challenge for the next lesson is keeping me near the guitar. My finger callouses are coming back.

My parting words for you: take on a new or abandoned creative challenge as part of building your satisfying retirement. No matter how full you think your days are, or how overflowing your calendar seems to be,a creative outlet really needs to be part of your life. Guitar playing may not interest you. So, how about writing, journaling, sketching, orpainting? Can you build a bookcase or end table? Can you take some wood and make colorful birdhouses? Do you sew quilts? Can you re-decorate a room to make you happy? Can you help your grandkids learn the basics of budgeting?

Creativity is a word that covers virtually anything you do during the day. The exciting part is finding a new or better way. The important part is keeping your mind active and yourself challenged.

Now, if I can just finger the F chord properly...

Bob Lowry was a management consultant to the radio industry before retiring in 2001. He authors the successful retirement blog Satisfying Retirement, and lives with his wife in Scottsdale, Arizona. His latest e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement, is available through Amazon.

 

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