March 24, 2018. Shifting down a gear

Gary Mason is a columnist for the Globe and Mail.  He used to write (for a long time) for the Vancouver Sun.  I still think of him as a BC’er, sort of...

Gary’s last column was about ‘Getting out of the madness and goin’ up country’.  More specifically, the actual title is: “It’s time to unplug and escape this nightmare we live in”.

It seems he suddenly felt the need to immerse himself in the forest and isolate himself from the modern world.  Poor Gary.  Poor, foolish, overwhelmed and burnt-to-a-crisp, Torontonian Gary. I know the feeling well.  He’s close to breaking……

He’ll likely do it.  Move.  Quit.  Maybe.  (But once the thought happens…… is VERY hard to let it go…)

Cutting the umbilicals is hard.  And the older you get, the harder it is.  Mind you, a lot of people who have no intention of cutting loose get a cabin and find themselves, somehow, less engaged in the madding crowd, the rat race, the hoi polloi.  They are the accidental retirees. “Oh no!  We’re in a cabin.  We are not off the grid, tho.  We aren’t crazy!”

But maybe…they now live ‘out of town’, dress in old clothes, shop infrequently and maybe even sport solar panels somewhere. They sure as hell don’t lease their Mercedes anymore. Parking expenses drops. They start their days slowly and end them at happy hour.  They call it retirement but NOT off the grid.  Off the grid is too extreme.  They are still ON THE GRID and proud to be so.  They are civilized.  They can drive.  They have power. Big screen TV. They still have a sub-zero fridge.

OK, they probably have well-water now, too, and a generator for power interruptions. Septic tank service?  Maybe a dog? Some whackos even try their hand at chickens. They might even use a clothesline.  They grow gardens.  They maybe even hunt, fish, forage and swap with neighbours but they are NOT off the grid.  “I told ya! We’re not crazy hippies, ya know!”

“Last time we went in for fancy restaurant food?  Or an evening event?  Geez…….been awhile, now that you ask…..” 

The point?  Whether you think you go off the grid or not, most people unplug and disengage with the mainstream of life as they age. That is not news.  Old people retire and retirement is synonymous with slower pace, gardening, quilting and such.  Retirees slow down, drop out and disengage with the modern world.  It’s natural.

Some, of course, have a bit of fun and go RV’ing or boating first.  Some move to cabins and cottages from the get-go.  Some relocate to a small town.  And some, of course, stay in the city but, no matter the path, it is always less hectic and less stressful, more satisfying and contented, basically a ‘better life’ (for most).  Old people can’t keep up the pace of modern life, learning new apps and getting new phones to do even more modern crap.  Gary is simply getting in touch with that kinda change. He is meeting his inner pensioner.

We all do.

Me?  On the face of it, you’d think we got down with our inner pensioners early.  We certainly dropped out early.  And WE ARE OFF THE GRID…….but, like I wrote in our second book, OTG is mostly a state of mind.  I am 70 now and I can sense yet another and a different gear.  It’s getting markedly slower again.

I guess what I am saying is, we hit OTG at a fast pace fifteen years ago and, even tho the lifestyle is slower and healthier overall and by direct comparison to what we left, we came early and with energy.  We were not as retiring as many who did what we did simply because our first few years were more intense than I am describing as ‘normal’ retirement.  In that sense, we were premature retirees.

I think we are there now, tho.  

Long distance air travel is done.  I write now, for fun.  Sal quilts.  I look forward to dinner way, way too early every day (second favourite thing).  Getting one chore done a day now passes for ‘accomplishment’.  I no longer have to do ten.  I dropped to three or four chores a few years ago.  Now?  One chore a day is good enough (no, blogging does not count as a chore).  We are slowing down.  We are retiring.

NOW, at 66 and 70, we are truly retiring…….

Gary?  You coming?


17 thoughts on “March 24, 2018. Shifting down a gear

  1. Funny.
    I was talking to some people at work the other day after we spend 30 minutes discussing recipies….”OMG! we’ve turned into our PARENTS!”
    Everyone stopped for a second and burst out laughing.
    Age….kinda sneaks up on you………


    • I’ll never forget a friend of mine asking me a few years ago…..”can you still put on your pants while standing up?”
      I can, of course, but I can’t do socks anymore. So, it’s just a matter of time. Think Gary is reading this?


    • Don’t forget, Aldo, we are talking about the leaser of a Benz, the guy running full tilt to make a buck, the martini circuit guy. Country club. But NOW he’s retired. Now he’s got choices. Maybe fly fishing? Maybe curling or golf? Maybe a dog?
      Start slow, maybe? Start by quitting the gym? Maybe divorce? Vote Green? Who knows?


      • True. For some, joining the gym is real change, a chance to engage with the physical instead of just the intellect. But I meant it as a metaphor for convention, for habit, for social standing. And, of course, I am just using colourful examples that are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. For you retirees over 65 pumping iron and squatting with tonnage, I applaud you. Honest.


  2. Dammit! I thought ‘old’ was someone ten years older than you, so maybe I AM ‘old’. I can’t think of anyone ten years older than me (I know it’s supposed to be ‘I’) so I guess I’ve arrived.
    But all the other criteria you describe just about confirms it. Slow down. Check. Accomplish one chore/day. Check. Old clothes, never go to town. Check. I can still do pants AND socks though!
    I’m intrigued – what is your ‘most favourite’ thing?
    I can’t be bothered with eating, another sign of ageism. I think my favourite now is ‘sprucing up’ (the house, AND ME) in preparation for an infrequent visitor.
    Yup, colour me old.


  3. True. For some, joining the gym is real change, a chance to engage with the physical instead of just the intellect. But I meant it as a metaphor for convention, for habit, for social standing. And, of course, I am just using colourful examples that are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. For you retirees over 65 pumping iron and squatting with tonnage, I applaud you. Honest.


  4. For me the gym is not deep squats or pushing beyond ones comfort level. The teenagers take the evening shift at the gym often breaking machines while pushing to extremes. One 74 year old has been working a year to bench press 200 lbs. He is pressing 187 lbs currently but he does not mind his slow progress. Most seniors are working on their core and on their flexibility. The gym is near a senior’s Center but few of the residents come to the gym. They prefer their walkers when getting some fresh air.The gym is a constant reminder that falling is not an option.


  5. I met Gary Mason once, must have been about 24 years ago. On my way to London with my firstborn aged 1 year old; Gary, a sports writer then, was on his way to cover the Olympics in Lillehammer, I think. He sat behind us on the plane and was a very good entertainer for young Robin who spent a lot of the airplane journey peeking over the seat at him. Seemed like a good person; not sure he is Torontonian originally….not sure what my point is…getting off the grid as much as possible can only be a good thing, even for what appear to be retired urbanites. We should encourage one another to seek our inner off-the-griddleness…..I guess.


    • That’s what I think. Running with the rats is herding, following, striving to be ‘in there’ ‘doing that’ WITH the group. Buying, consuming, pursuing. Not ALL bad stuff (very social) but definitely common denominator kinda stuff. Not everyone gets a chance to be themselves. Most have to conform to a large extent just to ‘make a buck’. BUT, when you retire, you have choices, freedoms and opportunities. I say, ‘explore ’em’. Why not? And, to be honest, simply getting away from the larger peer group influences is liberating. As it stands, I find that am pretty ordinary. In the Hobbsian milieu or off the grid, I am still pretty much me. But, until I lived out here, I wasn’t 100% sure. AND I found a few ‘inner-Dave’ things that I didn’t know about. I like wild stuff! Who knew? I like harsh storms and small physical struggles. I like working with my hands. I like learning how outboards work. I have also learned to relax some. All of that and more a big surprise and stuff I would not have known about had I stayed in the cul-de-sac wondering why I was so frustrated.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gary raised his family in the same community as you did..nice guy and his sons are awesome.. played hockey with mine.. very nice down to earth family. Wife wrote in the locale paper under the name of Barbara Gunn


  7. I have a bone to pick with Gary, he co authored a book denigrating Bill Vanderzalm. I was in business and dealt with the Knapps people. Bill an Lil are self made people, I watched them at work.
    Nothing at all like the sort of lifer sucklings as the ted hughes ilk.


  8. Before you know it, ‘Alexa’ will be monitoring your life. You will be muttering over your tea and she will light-up and give you her two cents worth. ‘’Dave, I’ve been meaning to tell what is wrong with your outboard!” ‘’Alexa, shut yourself off.”


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