bkgd1My folks came to visit last weekend and since they run a business that places old people in to assisted living situations the topic of aging and retiring was bound to come up. Start early seems to be the most resounding bit of advice they have garnered from their time with the elder population not to mention the advancement of their own lives. There’s an old proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. It’s true. A tree planted 20 years ago would be providing shade or food or leaves to rake which would require hiring someone to do it (because I don’t do yard work) which employs someone and stimulates the economy. Way to go tree! The second half of that proverb, though, says the second best time to plant a tree is right now. Meaning it’s never too late to start and if you do it right now you won’t be wondering what your tree would look like 20 years from now because you would be staring at it. But I’m not trying to plant a tree, you say! Well, apart from the fact that we could all benefit from some additional shrubberies feeding oxygen in to our world, the tree is a metaphor. And I’ve never metaphor I didn’t like (Dad joke). So what does it mean for me right now on a summer’s day in July in the city of Los Angeles? It means I started looking back 20 years and remembering all the “trees” I never planted. The ones I meant to plant but didn’t. The ones people who had already lived their next 20 years told me I should plant. The ones they wished they had planted. I didn’t listen. I planted no trees and now I stand in a desolate waste land of a treeless environment. Wow. This metaphor took a turn. But I shall not fret for I remember the second half of the proverb. I could just give up and get comfortable here in my land sans trees and I feel like most of us do that. It’s easier. It’s “safer”. It feels more comfortable because it only requires the kind of suffering we’ve been doing our whole lives and as we have had beaten in to our brains it’s better to dance with the devil you know. OR I can grab a shovel and a watering pail and start planting. Some of the trees I plant today won’t even be for me, they’ll be for my kids or grandkids or nieces and nephews, and that’s admirable. But some of the trees are definitely for me. After my folks returned to Florida my wife began doing what she does (intensely research) in regards to retirement. How much money will we need? What kind of lifestyle will we want? You know, old people questions? But it’s better to start early. A little seed becomes a big tree. It just takes time. And time is going to pass anyway so we might as well use it. But she’s just talking about the giant oak tree that is about financial security. What about the little trees? Like health? Or time management? Planting trees like those, to me, means developing good habits. Those are definitely trees I did NOT plant 20 years ago. So now I think it’s time to start doing some planting. I’m overweight today. I don’t want to be overweight 20 years from now. In the past I have lost weight quickly and then slowly gained it back because I didn’t develop good habits, I just changed some things until I got the results I wanted and then went right back to the way I’d been doing it all along. Essentially putting up a fake tree and then ripping it out 6 months later. I don’t enjoy exercising. I like the way I feel after but I always hate the idea of doing it more than I like how I feel later. So I need to get my feelings out of the equation. How do I do that? Start early, I guess. This morning we woke up early and went on a long walk. I was too tired to hate anything enough to not do it and 45 minutes later I had done some exercise and was finished with breakfast a full two hours before I usually come raging in to consciousness. Seed planted. Now I just have to water it everyday until it takes root and becomes habit. Maybe tonight I’ll plant the “No snacking after dinner” tree and see what happens. It should be easy considering It’s the morning and I’m ready for bed.