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December, 1999: 5 19 24 26


(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

12/5/99-Sun.-Much has happened since the last entry. Frances, Pepper, and I have been on many walks in deer country, with multiple sightings, always exciting and uplifting.

My shoulder is still very sore at times, with other symptoms as well, including tenderness and/or numbness down the left arm, even to the wrist and hand. Nonetheless, the P.T. I have been doing, though painful and an extremely slow-going process, has shown some minor results. At least the joint has less moments of agony than a couple weeks ago. My ranges of motion are a little improved.

When I'd gone to the doctor about the shoulder, shortly after my last entry, she was quite impatient with me for having restricted motion in the joint, saying that, regardless of the cause of the pain, I had to keep up as much movement as possible even if this caused great discomfort, or I would permanently lose most use of the shoulder and arm! She showed me several physical therapy exercises I must employ until things were back to normal.

I felt embarrassed at this result (of having tried to be my own physician), plus concern that I might already have done myself significant harm. She said my earlier worries, that more normal activities plus stretching exercises to keep up movement might do further damage to ligaments or tendons, were very misguided, and that, in fact, the origin of the pain really did not matter. It could have been any number of things. By stopping regular use, she said, I had made things much worse.

Ron got in touch the Friday after Thanksgiving, reporting his computer system being down once again, which explains why there were no responses to our e-mail suggestions that we get together. In addition, he had a vehicle breakdown on his postal carrier route on the Wednesday before the holiday.

Frances was involved throughout the week and the weekend after Thanksgiving with some of her regular teaching plus rehearsals and/or performances of "Don Giovanni," by Mozart, for the Austin Lyric Opera, and of "The Nutcracker," by Tchaikovsky, for the San Antonio Symphony (for which she'd been commuting to/from San Antonio, of course). She also was fighting a cold!

Ron and his two girls, Esther and Jane, and I got together on the Sat. after Thanksgiving, 11/27, first joining Frances for lunch at Ci-Ci's Pizza, before she drove on down to San Antonio once again, then with kite and toy airplane flying at a park near my and Fran's place, going to a community library for tapes and CDs that Ron wanted, a stop at Randall's for popcorn and ice cream, then over to my place for snacks and video watching, giving a card and gift to Jane in honor of her sixth birthday anniversary, and a chance for Ron to check on his e-mail messages, using our machine.

Ron, with help from A.A. and his church, has just completed four full years of no alcohol or pot, and says he has had a religious conversion, that his life is turned around. Too bad this great change was insufficient to have preserved the marriage to Joan, which officially ended a few months ago. Frances and I feel that in recent years Ron had made much the larger proportion of efforts, between he and Joan, to keep that relationship intact.

He reports that he's looking into buying a piece of land out east of Austin and putting a trailer-home onto it. This will be more cost-effective than the apartment he now has, should be much roomier, and will be closer to his postal route, though farther from where his girls will be (and from Frances and me).

For Fran and myself, a significant discovery of the last few days seems now likely to change dramatically how things may transpire in the next several years. For some time now, I had understood that the retirement provisions of the State of Texas are such that I must work till age sixty to be eligible for benefits. However, in a letter received about five days ago, the Employees Retirement System of Texas let me know I'll be eligible for retirement, with health benefits plus an annual annuity, in March, 2002, when I am 58, over a year and a half earlier than we had expected!

The question then arises whether we would have enough retirement savings and investments set aside for achieving our goals and meeting our expenses without regular work after that. I have been calculating things as well as I can. We are likely to wind up with about $600,000 by then, unless there is, in the interim, a terribly severe bear market for stocks, which certainly could happen, of course. If this conservative estimate is close to correct, we should be able to take out about 5% a year (from interest, dividends, and/or principal) while still seeing the nest egg appreciate, on average, at least keeping up with inflation. Thus, including the annuity, we should be able to have about $50,000 a year at first, more later, to use for our retirement, even if we never work a day more after 3/31/02. This is just a little over two years away.

Suddenly I find myself singing in the shower again, doing spontaneous little dances for no reason, kissing the wife and playing with the dog just for the sheer joy of it, and so on. In short, this development is the greatest that has occurred in our lives in a very, very long time!

12/19/99-Sun.-In 1976, just after I'd returned from India and was "full of myself," spreading the word about the beauty of the Master and of The Lifestream Way Path, Dr. Harold Pearl (with whom I'd had an on-again-off-again correspondence of several years' duration, after he had been, from 1965-1970, my mentor, friend, surrogate father---since my own dad could not really be an encouraging, caring person in my life---and psychiatrist in San Francisco) sent me a copy of a book he'd written on one form of meditation experience and related psychological phenomena. He had just had it published and asked me to do him the favor of putting free copies of it in some library branches around near where I lived, then in the Hopewell-Petersburg area of Virginia, saying he would send me more as I could use them for this.

I read the book and thought, from a literary criticism standpoint, that it had some deficiencies. Weighing more heavily on me, though, was that in the teachings of The Lifestream Way, to which I was then dedicated, we were told to avoid any cultivation of other mental and meditational disciplines. I self-righteously decided that, as a good disciple of my Master, Mahatma Baba Krishna, I should not be helping Harry to spread opposing guidance, that encouraged a more positive, understanding view of other meditation options, about which, of course, I had no direct knowledge myself.

So, I wrote Harry a short note indicating I was sorry but that I was "too busy" to help with promoting the book. Over the years he had written me scores of times, if only a line or two, plus making the occasional phone call, and even for awhile gave me credit, up to hundreds of dollars in professional fees I once owed him, never charging interest (I did pay everything back!), but with this response from me he had evidently "had it." I never heard from him again.

He knew from an earlier communication that I was "committed to The Lifestream Way to the exclusion of all else" and also understood enough about it to see that its approach could never be intellectually satisfying for him, and that its tendency to direct its adherents to reject other avenues of meditation or spiritual questioning would lead to a certain closed-mindedness, when what he was about was more and more open-mindedness. But he did not argue the points with me. He just allowed the communication to cease. So did I.

I realized, of course, when I had replied as I did that last time, that it could have this effect. I was sure of my higher moral ground, within the bosom of The Lifestream Way, and did not care what he felt. If he thought badly of me, I rationalized, well, he was not enlightened and had not found the true way. I was as smug as the most vehement Christian zealot. Uggh!

Today, having gotten his address from the internet, hoping he is still in adequate health, I sent him a holidays card, with a copy of the last issue of "Wagnerian Express," plus a short note: "It is high time I apologized for my arrogance of so many years ago. I'm sorry. I hope the passage of time has been kind to you. I made several friends in that Lifestream Way group in which I was involved, but eventually left it." I felt this needed to be said. It should have been said a long time ago.

I have no expectation of a reply. Ironically, except for relatives, Harry has probably had more effect on me than anyone in my life. That effect has not gone away simply because I rejected an opportunity to have done him a favor, and thus so foolishly ended a relationship.

12/24/99-Fri.(Christmas Eve)-Because of the way the holidays both fall on weekends this year, I get off a minimal amount for them, just today and half of next Friday. I could take extra leave but have chosen not to, saving it for a better time.

It is a relatively low-key time. Frances's folks, Linda and Mike, arrived Wed. afternoon and are staying through some time on Sun., 12/26. This is their first visit with us over Christmas, indeed, their first visit together at our place. Fran's Mom had been her here in Austin, several months before Fran and I got married, and we first met then, about fifteen years ago.

She had also visited us on her own about ten years ago, at our present residence. Mike came this time perhaps only because they now have a large RV, which makes the trip more comfortable than it could otherwise be, especially in the late evening and at night. We're all having a fairly pleasant time together, doing about half what we might have fit in during this period, but getting in lots of rest and relaxation.

12/26/99-Sun.-(9 AM) Sipping coffee and munching a donut at H.E.B., after a walk with Pepper, near Barnes and Noble. Was up today about 6:30 AM. Linda and Mike got underway in their RV, heading home to Florida, about an hour later. They intend to spend their first night at Sea Rim State Park, a seashore/marsh wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary near Port Arthur, Texas. (Fran and I have spent several pleasant vacation days and nights there.)

With them we have just had one of our more enjoyable and relaxed end-of-year holiday celebrations.

They surprised Frances with a gift of scores of photo prints and/or digitized disk pictures from her childhood, and/or pictures of her relatives, early pet dogs in their lives, and so forth. Some photos, I believe, were from as early as the 1920s.

My shoulder and sinus-cold problems continue, though they're now at a nuisance level, no longer severe.

(3 PM) Frances and I had lunch at Bombay Grill, our favorite Indian restaurant, the first time back there since Fran had a bad bout of gastroenteritis (from food poisoning, she thinks, but not from that restaurant).

I recently used a personality test on the internet, a variation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which I first took over twenty years ago, in connection with masters level studies in counseling and work as a graduate assistant psychometrist. No matter how many times I have used that instrument, nor how many years since I had last done so, I consistently come out with the profile "INFJ," most similar to that of an author.

Yesterday, during a lull in visiting with Fran's parents, I completed an analysis of our investments, through 12/24. Our year-end current assets goal had been $538,000, as planned this time a year ago, with $345,000 of it in equities. The actual total came out to $557,000, of which $352,000 were in equities. Thus, we are easily on target for our revised retirement date, by which time we hope to have $500,000 in equities, over $100,000 in reserves or bond assets, plus a retirement annuity worth, as "principal," at least $400,000. If all goes as planned (an optimistic assumption, of course), by 3/31/02 we should have the equivalent of a well-allocated million-dollar portfolio, with an average annual performance of hopefully about 9%. However, then we'll need to live on that, so the expected increase per year afterward would be much more modest.

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