Metamorphosis in a Pandemic

By Jim Dickens

I had this two stage vision of retirement where I would physically do stuff until I couldn’t and then I would watch and talk.  I have found it more intricate than that but richer.  It is not a steady decline with constant capability loss.  In fact I found myself gaining here and there, in addition to declines.  The absence of work is only that and you continue on as a human being just like when you were at work.  My focus recently has turned to the world my children will inhabit and my desire to be positive.

Since the beginning of the year, 2020, I have become a vegetarian.  And I plan on continuing.  I have done it for the usual reasons, health, being more humane, and positive environmental impact.  The overarching reason is environmental impact thinking of the future world.  I have seen the biased documentaries like Game Changer and Cowspriacy.  More importantly, I have read scientific materials like MIT Technology Review, Sapiens and Nature.  And I have been involved and in the field with Trout Unlimited.   According to the USGS being a vegetarian will save 50,000 to 100,000 gallons of fresh water per year and lower the amount global warming.  So now as I walk around claiming to care about clean water, I am actually doing something about it.  It makes me feel like a better citizen.  For me it is an easy change as I happen not to wake up dying for a rash of bacon.  It would be harder for me to give up travel and being mean to fish.

In addition to vegetarianism, I have added yoga started running again.  The yoga is beginning yoga for complete beginners but it feels very advanced to me.  Once a week for 30 minutes but it has a positive impact.  Due to worn out knees I stopped running 10 years ago.  But there is nothing like running to build leg strength.  Luckily there are now Hoka One Bondi shoes that are like wearing mattresses on your feet.  They aren’t built for speed but combined with a soft trail I can manage a few miles a couple of times per week.

Additionally, a  couple of walked rounds of golf, a 20 mile bike combined with continued shoulder rehab every week start to shape a healthier lifestyle.  The final planned piece is swimming.  Now with two good shoulders returning to a few thousand yards a week will really help. That will be added by year end.

MIT Technology Review at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 did a prescient and great job sharing insight on the danger of pandemics and how to live longer.  This prepared me to invest well during the pandemic.  I switched from investing for growth to investing for volatility.  In terms of living longer, new medication, emerging gene therapy and fasting research progress are all avenues to adding many productive years to lives.  I choose to fast over pills and gene therapy thinking it would have fewer risks and deleterious side effects.

During the COVID 19 pandemic, I have been very lucky to have an easy to handle situation.  We are not essential workers taking on significant health risk.  We don’t have jobs that potentially will be eliminated. We live in a less dense area with uncrowded large parks, close by golf courses and the ability to take day trips to the Wisconsin Driftless, a fly fishing mecca. Our only health risk is being over 50.

I was contacted by my Los Angeles friend and ex workmate, Dave Boden.  He was working for CORE, a non profit, that was setting up temporary COVID testing sites for first responders and health care workers.  I asked if I could help and received a real request.  I spent 60 hours in 4 days designing sourcing and building plexiglass and PVC tubing barriers to shield volunteers from the tested. Then I got to teach City of Chicago carpenters how to build them.  I was tired and sore afterwards but found the work invigorating and satisfying.  

I spent 12 days in late March and April in the Driftless area.  I learned the terrain and exploring without a guide book. It’s called the Driftless because in the last Ice Age it was the only part of Wisconsin that remained free of glaciers.  When the Ice Age ended it had no glacial flattening of the land and ground up rocks called drift.  The area has rolling hills of old limestone seabed laced with cool spring fed streams that support trout,.  There are over 5000 miles of stream much of it on private land and much of it polluted and devoid of trout.  Learning access points, finding fish and learning how to catch them was really a fun and rewarding challenge.

My sister in law became temporarily disabled for a couple of months.  She needed help with outdoor and yard maintenance.  I went over a half a dozen times to weed, trim, prune and hang lights.  At one point, I was trimming her bushes while a hired crew was trimming mine.  However, I didn’t look at it as trimming bushes but as helping my sister in law.  Again this was very satisfying.  I will now be on the look out for ad hoc opportunities to chip in and help my fellow man.

With the partial reopening the Ridgeline tour has resumed with no hugging or hand shaking.  All bars and restaurants are al fresco.  The new me is back on tour with a mask on.

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