Current wisdom says that we must keep learning or lose brain power. Where a few years ago they were teaching that the aging brain was like cement, hardening to unchangable, now advisers recommend learning new things to fend off the zombie-like conditions we see in nursing homes. It isn't enough to learn to play golf better; you have to learn to play something altogether new. At a time when a lot of us have the leisure to do the things we like, we're supposed to leave our comfort zones and tread new territory. Drat.

So what should a person do to challenge herself? I could take up a hobby like knitting or quilting or golf. Oh wait, I have never been coordinated, these days my eyes don't like close work, and I hate playing games. Maybe I could become a bird watcher. No, the arthritis in my back and knees will kill me as I crouch in the woods and wait for the little critters. Powerpoint! I could learn to make my own little slideshows...but who would ever want to see them? I'd be creating for no one. I could learn Spanish, but who would I talk to?

The problem with an old dog learning new tricks is that they have to be worthwhile tricks. There's no incentive, for either the dog or those around her, to do a trick that has no point. Retirement leads some people into Pointless Land, where they spend their time on things like hand-embroidered pillowcases that no one wants or uses (but everyone gets). Even to save my brain, I can't make myself take up a pastime I don't anticipate with joy. The only thing I want to do is write, so I guess that's what I'll do. If it leads me out of my comfort zone once in a while, say to approach an editor at a conference or to expand my knowledge of the computer, that will have to do for the new trick thing.

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