Time is Short

By Joe Rector

Well, the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I used to believe the statement… until I became an old dog. These days, part of my life is learning new things. Some of them are physical, but others deal more with personal attributes. Time is much shorter than it used to be, and I am no longer as scared to give new things a try.

For several years, I have been fascinated with woodworking. Previously, I referred to pieces that I made as primitive or rustic. The fact is that my skills are limited. Of late, my goals have included joining pieces of wood with joints cut on the table saw or fitting one piece partially inside another. My work is still rough. Still, I labor on them as if they were precious pieces that are in demand. Learning and refining those skills keep me busy for hours, and I derive so much pleasure just trying. The hours fly by until I look up and am surprised at the lateness of the hour.

I joined a gym a few years ago, and going there is almost an addiction. If a session is missed, my mood swings low until I put in the work. My fat belly is somewhat under control because of the work on my core. I don’t lift heavy amounts of weights, but I work out with enough to keep my old, tired muscles toned. Best of all, those core exercises give momentary relief from the back pain and the pain that runs down my leg and into my foot. I used to be embarrassed by my weakness, but these days, I don’t go to the gym for anyone but myself.

In high school and even in college, I enjoyed singing in groups. No, I’m not the greatest singer that’s come around, but I can usually carry a tune. A few years ago, my singing days ended. The combination of acid reflux, talking all day to and at students, and smoking wore out my vocal cords to the point that singing just didn’t happen.

Our church hired a new music director. Gage Sharp and his wife, Ashley, rescued a struggling program. The choir righted itself so that its presentations improved greatly. The praise band added singers and new instrumentalists. With Paula Helton playing the piano in such an amazing way, the group’s sound improved and became a wonderful part of the worship service.

Gage put Ashley up to calling and asking me to sing in the choir for the Christmas cantata. I was reluctant and excited. I’d sung in the church’s choir during high school, and being back in that practice room felt comfortable. I’ve stayed and worked enough that my voice is in better shape.

In fact, I recently signed up for lessons with Gage. He lives in my neighborhood, and I walked to his house yesterday for the first session. The man knows how to make others feel comfortable, and in no time, all the nervousness disappeared. I didn’t believe his compliments but appreciated the encouragement. I told Gage that I’d sung in front of the church as a child and as a teen. In my dreams, I’d like to sound good enough to sing just one more time. The work lies ahead to improve my voice, but I’m not sure I can ever shake the fear of standing in front of folks and singing by myself. That part of the story is still unwritten.

In my life, I’ve always been nervous, easily angered, and self-righteous. I’ve expected things to be done my way. My nerves have frayed whenever I can’t be sure an event or a plan didn’t go exactly as I expected. I’m a stay-at-home person who never liked traveling.

These days, Amy is teaching me how to relax and let go. She keeps reminding me that nothing has to be a certain way. I only need to enjoy the moment and be willing to experience new things. Giving up control is difficult, but I’m working on it and I find that retirement is much more fun when “spur-of-the-moment” activities are part of life.

I’ll keep working on myself and looking for new ways to step out and take chances. As I said, the time is short, and I have much to do.