This stage of life called retirement is the gift of time - the time to finally do what one wants. That distant light at the end of the tunnel - the destination - is finally reached. You have arrived! Now what? Viewed as a destination, retirement proves disappointing. You are still the same person, but have lost your identity in this process. How do you now define yourself?
Do you obsess about financial or health issues? Do you uproot and move to a different climate? Do you seek a creative living arrangement around other retirees? Do you join life long learning classes? While each of these conventional ideas of retirement are valid activities, they do not feed the new identity that you seek. In his book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, William Bridges calls these ideas diversions from the work that needs to be done in retirement. He says, "The final chapter of the work life may or may not involve salaried work, but it must return to society the fruits of those discoveries made during the third quarter of life." (97)
How to share your gifts, skills, and life lessons can be hard to identify. One repeated recommendation for mining the fruits of your life experience is to meditate. I am trying to learn how to do that. It is easy to pray to a higher being and wait for a response. It is much harder to look inside and honor your own thoughts and being with action. Silence, helps.
Early in my retirement I committed to a week without TV to explore this concept of silence and quieting of the mind. Since the news and weather were my main reasons for watching TV, I subscribed to The Skim, read online news on Twitter, and checked the weather on my phone. Done. I rarely turn on TV now, and find that comforting. I do watch one specific program, Downton Abby (can't help it, I love the cultural conflicts!), AND when my daughter calls me to say that the sky is falling, "Turn on the TV!"
I find this silence refreshing and imagine that my brain is working much better than when it was on media overload.(No scientific evidence, just my feeling.) A good friend advises that life flows by like a river with many distractions, diversions, attractions, and addictions and the challenge is to pay attention and snag those attractions that resonate with you and act on them. Honoring that advice, I am taking a two week vacation from this blog to respond to an attraction that has surfaced - to assist in completing a grant application for a start-up non-profit, Reading Kingdoms, with a looming due date of March 18 - honoring my own thoughts with action. It's something that will make a difference for children in Pawtucket, RI and in American education. Teachers have good ideas. I want to support solutions that come from the trenches, not from the top.
Advice whether or not you ask: Change it up! Whatever is your passion, do it!