Swan song or launch pad?

I did not want to get up this morning. Lying in bed, I had a slight sense of dread. “You awake?” my husband asked. “Yes,” I replied. “But I don’t want to get up.”

“Why not?” he asked. “Because I don’t know how to make today different from yesterday,” I replied. Yes, dear friends, even retirement readiness experts have days where they feel lost, adrift, and uncertain.

The past five months have been a juggling act of caring for and managing the care by others of my elderly father, helping my husband through another retirement “funk” and dealing with the explosive growth of my retirement readiness coaching business. I had so many people needing my time and attention I lost myself in the process.

It all came to a head on Saturday when my body confirmed what my heart already knew: my life had become a pain in the neck and a pain in the butt. Literally, I woke up with a pulled muscle in both my neck and buttocks. How did I pull those muscles? I have no idea. It’s as though my body presented me with a physical example of how my life felt at the moment.

I had a massage scheduled for Sunday afternoon. It was the first self-care I had done in quite some time. As I lay on the table, having the knots in my body melted away by caring, skilled hands I fell into a deep sleep. That was the first step to restoration – an act of kindness towards myself rather than others.

The second step came after I got out of bed this morning. I was about to roll into the day in the same way I had for months, having coffee, watching my husband watch TV and feeling bombarded by negative news when I realized that this was the moment to choose to do something differently. I ran upstairs, put on my workout clothes, grabbed my phone and headphones with the intention to listen to something inspirational and headed for the gym.

As I warmed up on the treadmill, I gave myself to the day with the following prayer:

“God, show me how I may be of value today. Show me what you would have me to do with this day. Let me hear what I need to hear. Let me do what I need to do. Let me be open to new ways of thinking and new ideas. Let me get out of my own way and serve You and others. Let me be thankful for all that I have. Expand my vision and change my limited thinking about this most important phase of life. May I be inspired and inspire others.”

In my quest to take care of my father and my husband I forgot to take care of me. My spiritual life is the most important aspect of my life. Yet, I had ignored it. As it withered, so did I. Listening to inspirational messages while working out has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Yet, I haven’t done this in more than 5 months.

I put on my headphones and looked through the podcasts available. There were more than a dozen to choose from but the one next in the sequence did not particularly appeal to me. Remembering my prayer uttered moments before on the treadmill requesting to change my limited thinking, I pushed the “play” button. In that podcast was one of the most profound quotes I have ever heard. The podcast was an Oprah Winfrey interview with Sister Joan Chittister. Here is what Sister Joan said:

“We train our young to get ahead, our middle-aged to consume, and our elderly to be silent.”

That quote gave me goosebumps and resonated with every fiber of my being. It opened my eyes to a whole host of opportunities to work with fellow baby boomers to change the truth of that statement in our world. I asked to have my vision expanded in my prayer on the treadmill this morning. I see the world differently now and I give thanks.

Retirement, or whatever you want to call the post-career phase of life, is not a swan song, but a launch pad.


Kathryn Avery

About Kathryn Avery

When Kathryn Severns Avery’s husband, Chris, began contemplating retirement in 2014, she knew they had to quickly come up with a multi-faceted plan. They spent the next year discussing, sometimes heatedly, what they would do once he stopped working. On paper their plan looked exciting. They would head from Colorado to the 1891 sea captain’s house they bought and renovated in Rockland on Maine’s midcoast. But the reality of planning and implementing retirement was much different than expected. Kathryn has worked in radio, television, marketing, and public relations. She is the author of five books and has written articles on interior design and crafts for national and regional publications including Romantic Homes, Log Homes Illustrated, The Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Homes and Lifestyles.