Lesson 15: Retirement Requires Rebirth

Being retired is like being a young child again, where you get to do whatever you want when you want. Only now you have money too! At least, that’s true for the lucky among us who do have enough money to not worry about it. I have some friends in their late 60s who are still working because they have no other choice. I feel bad for them because they don’t have the freedom to stop.

But actually being retired has its own challenges. I used to be a public school teacher and even though this job can be very stressful and exhausting, it is meaningful. You really are making a difference in the lives of other people.

When you are retired, however, you must begin again. You must find things to do that give your life meaning. Undoubtedly having grandchildren would give life meaning! But you can’t just wait around for your children to have children of their own. This might not happen soon, or it might never happen.

You must make your own choices. And if you are anything like me, having too much free time is a scary prospect. I thrive on having a lot to do and am not really comfortable just being. So, retirement forces choices upon us. You must decide what to do with endless free time, where every day is effectively Saturday. My husband, Rick, is comfortable with retirement. “I have all the time in the world to do absolutely nothing,” he jokes. But he has always been comfortable with being, rather than doing. He has taken to retirement like a duck to water. Me, not so much. I have always felt driven to accomplish things. Life is short. I got to make a difference while I am here. My relationship with time is not so relaxed.

So, knowing that I have this drive to accomplish things that doesn’t completely go away when one is retired, I have joined two choirs and two book groups. I love to sing with others, and I love to read and talk about books with avid readers. I have also chosen to do yoga for the good it does for my aging body and restless mind. It is also a great place to make friends. When I lived in Ireland, I found my best friends in yoga class. And I have made very good friends in yoga now that I live in Spain.

There is something about people who practice yoga that speaks to me. Perhaps they are more open and spiritually aware than some others. The half-hour of meditation that we do in yoga helps me to be in the moment, rather than think about what I need to do next. It helps me shed the working mentality I used to have about task completion. In the past, a day wasn’t worthwhile unless I had accomplished many tasks!

Retirement requires you to slow down and enjoy the day. It also helps you start jettisoning all the shoulds and should nots that swirl around in your mind. “I should clean the house.” “I should not sleep in.” “I should go grocery shopping.” “I should not watch TV during the day.”

Retirement can allow you to say goodbye to shoulds and should nots. You can give yourself permission to become a new person that is comfortable reading a novel rather than just non-fiction books. Now you can walk on the beach for no particular reason rather than run a required errand. Now you have time to stop and admire the beauty of flowers in bloom rather than feel the need to trim the bushes instead.

I am still not 100 percent comfortable with retirement and part of me keeps thinking this vacation will end and I will have to go back to work, go back to the person I used to be. But now I think my most important “work” is to be okay with sitting in silence, to be okay with not going anywhere, to be okay with doing absolutely nothing.

As the Buddhists understand, such a quiet place is where you find yourself. And if you are open to it, this place of silence is also where you can connect to the holy, to the world of spirit. And, in the end, this is where I always wanted to be.

Life Lesson: Retirement is not for the faint of heart. It requires growth and change. One must be willing to be born again, with a new, post-work, identity. One is constantly challenged to find a balance between doing things that give one’s life meaning and purpose and sitting still, doing nothing, and being okay with that too.


4 thoughts on “Lesson 15: Retirement Requires Rebirth

  1. This is excellent and a post many will relate to. My relationship with time is not so relaxed certainly describes me. If I could, I would have a small part-time job as total retirement, I´m not comfortable with. I do consider writing a job though and will continue to do that until I no longer can.

    Liked by 1 person

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