Is my brain going to rot? That’s one of the worries I have about Early Retirement. Or is it going to rot more quickly? I think I’m already heading to Senior Moment territory in my fifties as it is. These are just small annoyances, things like intending to say “I’m going to Tesco’s” and hearing your mouth say “I’m going FOR Tesco’s”, and feeling a little electrical disconnect spluttering between the mental control centre and the gob.
How can you prevent or slow down this deterioration? These days, many of us are aware of the importance of exercise both for the body and for the mind. The body is an easy thing to gauge in terms of progress (or lack of it) on the fitness front, but the mind is a bit more slippery. My Suduko solving skills may be improving as I have the time to practice daily, whereas other problem solving skills, such as remembering where my mobile ‘phone is. I find increasingly beyond me. Or registering what my wife just said while I was focusing on trying to find the Kilmarnock footie result on the internet.
There are other small annoyances, similar to failing to find the right word. One of my latest tricks that I’ve noticed is sticking my credit card into the card machines the wrong way ’round, with my thumb covering the chip. I never did that once when I was working! Still, that’s not quite as traumatic as managing to do a full shop at Lidl, putting it all through the checkout and only then discovering you’ve left your wallet at home. I managed this for the first time ever last Thursday, and just couldn’t believe it. The girl at the checkout smiled sympathetically and told me not to worry, it happens all the time. I managed to mentally thank her for not adding “to old blokes like yourself”.
Well, fair enough, I accept I’m heading toward doddery. I embrace it as an inevitable facet of being gifted a few more years on the planet. But, I ask myself, is retirement accelerating it without the stimulation that work used to bring?
For almost twenty years I held quite a senior level positions in Big Corporate companies. I was in commercial roles which, I’d have to admit, weren’t too intellectually tasking. But there was enough to keep you going. More exhausting, I found, was the social interaction my job required between colleagues and customers. If you weren’t on the mobile ‘phone to someone it was because someone was in your office badgering you about getting them a new mobile ‘phone. Or worse, you were in a meeting for five hours discussing mobile ‘phone policy.
The day I finished in the office, my own mobile phone almost literally stopped ringing . I can’t tell you how utterly fantastic this was. At first.
The incoming calls quickly became intermittent, then occasional, then faded away to almost zero. No loss. I could always call out. But wouldn’t people be busy at work? And, what could I contribute to their working day? I’d just be calling to chat about nothing.
More and more these days I find I’ve left home without the mobile. This was unthinkable when I was working. And I mean unthinkable. Twice during my career I left my mobile on a train, and it was like having my lungs ripped out. I felt I was drowning without it. I now look back on that situation as being utterly ludicrous but, in a way, I kind of miss it.
At work, I liked to have an “open door” on my office, allowing people to wander in and out at will. Most people do these days, and it helps to keep us busy. I have now adopted this policy at home. Except nobody comes through my door nine to five because they’re all at work.
Again, the novelty of this initially was inspiring. Time to myself! The greatest of all the small luxuries, previously available only behind the locked door of the toilet. These days, I find myself thinking about inviting the cat into the toilet with me just for some company in the empty house.
Thus, when my wife closes the door behind her on her way to her office, I feel my mind slipping into an easy neutral. It’s very pleasant, and I settle down with a coffee to read the paper and tackle the Suduko. But, bloody hell, it’s quiet! And my brain is ticking….do something, speak to someone, contribute to the world out there!
And don’t let your brain rot.