Thoreau wrote in the original Walden:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

I have adopted his mission as my own. This blog is one outcome. With luck and a modicum of determination, there will be others.

There are many differences between Thoreau and I: the state in which we live, although the town name is the same; the century in which we live. Thoreau lived before the typewriter was common, I live in the Internet age. The most important similarity is an introspective nature, a will to understand. There are others, and I’ll get to them in the pages of the blog as it proceeds.

For the longest while after I had to retire on disability,  I was utterly clueless; adrift with no idea what to do with myself, or how, if it was possible, to do it. Each day felt like an ocean of molasses, and I had somehow to fight my way from one end of it to the other. Once I had done that, I went to sleep knowing that tomorrow I’d get to do the same thing.

With no particular reason why I should do anything today as opposed to tomorrow or next week, I put more and more things off for longer and longer periods, did less and less each day. Eventually I found myself sitting day after day in the same chair in the same place doing almost nothing.  This reduction of most of life to one room was made easier, of course, by my disabilities. When doing anything hurts, it’s simplest to do nothing. That way you don’t have to fight an uphill battle against pain all day every day.  When typing makes your hands numb in a few seconds, it’s easier to avoid typing. If dictating makes you hoarse, stop. So it goes. Retirement as black hole.

With retirement, I realized slowly and painfully how much I depended on work to structure my life. Work told me when to get up and when to leave the house, natch. But that in turn determined when I should go to bed, and that determined how much time I had left for other activities and for socializing. Without being completely conscious of the fact, I had depended on work for making friends. With no work, I discovered how tiny my social circle was.  Another dimension of retirement as black hole.

By choosing to adopt Thoreau’s mission as my own, I was able to make all these black hole negatives into positives, make lemonade from all these life lemons. I had begun to make life worth the effort of living again.

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