Was it a message from above? I’m not sure, but it came via my iWatch. The time was after 6:00 p.m. yesterday evening and we had just returned from an afternoon jaunt into Austin. The message on my iWatch stated simply: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe”.
Even my watch knew that traffic was enough to create the kind of stress that could orchestrate your neck to hurt and your heart to race. Actually, I may have even been having chest pains by the time we got through Dripping Springs and that was on the west side of Austin heading into the city. By the time we got back home; well you can only imagine.
Some may call it progress, but Houstonians and folks from California have discovered “The Gateway To The Hill Country”. No one is surprised that they are finding it an ideal venue to call home. The place is running over with folks who know a good thing when they see it. How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?
I’d say based on the traffic congestion that we’re getting close to making that discovery. Yet, on the other hand, the new folks who’ve shown up in our neighborhood are precious people who want the same kinds of things that we wanted when we first moved here over three and a half decades ago. Last week we visited with a couple that moved here from Houston. They were on the threshold of buying a house in a Houston suburb located a stone’s throw from what was scheduled to subsequently become a freeway. They both awakened in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the thought: “We are crazy! What are we doing?” Consequently, they exited stage right and headed to the Austin area subsequently to ultimately discover the edge of heaven (aka- The Gateway To The Hill Country – or perhaps even one step closer – Henly, America).
How did I phrase the question? Oh, I remember: “How many people does it take moving into a small place before it becomes something other than a small place?” There is more to that question than most people really ponder? What was once regarded as “family land” that had been in the family for generations when folks in the area were “dirt poor” has become the gateway to the fast track of wealth and prosperity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.
Some adults who grew up in the area yearned for the day they could leave and make their mark on the world. They envisioned a level of opportunity and excitement that represented a contrast to what they had known in earlier years. Many found it. Some found it and immediately recognized it as fool’s gold and returned to their roots in the nick of time. Others simply moved on and forged their way through life with mostly memories of days gone by. Others desired to return but the time constraints related to commuting into Austin for work and the exaggerated housing costs placed the area outside their reach.
No one is to be faulted. It is simply that the demographics of life in the greater Dripping Springs area differ substantially from what they were like two-to-three decades ago. I miss the days when there was one blinking traffic light at the intersection of Hwy 290 and RR 12. Now you can’t count the number of traffic lights getting through Dripping Springs on one hand.
Okay, so I’m talking out of my head, but I was aware last night that the trip into Austin and back yesterday wasn’t a relaxing experience. So how did I make a 102 mile a day trek back and forth to work for the past sixteen consecutive years? Was traffic always as stressful as it was today? The answer is “No”. However, the last two-to-three years were identical or worse than conditions were yesterday. Hey, school hasn’t even started yet. Of course traffic conditions were much worse than they were yesterday, but how I can’t imagine. Throw that into the increasing population and no wonder it took me 2 to 2 1/ 2 hours to get home from work everyday?
“In 2016, the Austin area added 159 people per day on average. That’s the net gain. After taking into account 40,273 migrants, 27,375 births and 10,304 deaths, plus some statistical adjustments, the regional population climbed by 58,301 to an estimated 2,056,405, according to county and metro-area population estimates the U.S. Census Bureau”.
Yesterday morning the General said to me: “It seems like you are really enjoying retirement. I’m glad.” What did she expect? Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. I had preconceived thoughts and to be totally transparent, a few fears. Mostly, my perception was all wrong. For one thing, I anticipated that I would have nothing but time on my hands. I thought in short order I’d be bored to death. I also suspected the General would think her new role resembled that of a “drill sergeant” providing me structure and a daily “To Do List”. That wasn’t going to work!
To my great relief, the General really hasn’t been that way at all. Besides that, after 49-years of married bliss, I’m fairly skilled at managing life with the General. As Glen Campbell would melodiously sing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em – Know when to fold ‘em – Know when to walk away…” Trust me, I’ve got that part figured out. Besides that, I have a hearing impairment. Why not let that work to my advantage? Truth be told, I mostly hear what I want to hear and do what I want to do. In that regard, nothing’s changed.
The most surprising thing about retirement is that I’m as busier now than when I was working. Let me say, there is a hint of disappointment in that. I thought I’d have a lot more time for reading, but it becomes a trade-off. I have to let something else slide to find the time to read. Thankfully, I’m not burning four hours of my day each day in traffic. Consequently, the quality of my life has risen significantly.
Maybe it was because I didn’t have a good option other than to commute through the quagmire of traffic, but how did I do that for past sixteen years? I loved my job and I loved my home and I wanted it all. But having it all, represented more stress than I realized. I am significantly more rested and more relaxed now than when I spent twenty hours a week in the car.
The message on my iWatch came at a good time. I needed the reminder: “Live a better day by taking a minute to Breathe. How about you? I’d highly recommend it.
All My Best!