Our retirement experience is just that – ours. It will reflect the way we have lived life to this point. Retirement can magnify our inadequacies, disappointments, and longings. When we stop working that which we have avoided examining in our life no has nowhere to hide. We look in the mirror and see that which society tells us we don’t want, gray hair, wrinkled skin, reduced cognition, and failing vitality. But what often pains us the most when we meet our reflection’s gaze are the missed opportunities, the squandered resources and the fading or failing relationships.
It is ironic that at a time when our bodies are showing signs of age and our energy is declining we are required to muster a remarkable amount of inner strength and personal fortitude. But is this a time of darkness before we fade to black? It all depends on your inner light.
This summer our country experienced a total solar eclipse. I happened to be in Colorado for the eclipse which was not in the path of did totality but was close at 92.3%. What I found remarkable was that even at 92.3% totality it never really got dark. The brilliance of 7.7% light as evidenced by the photo I took that day I have included in this post was astounding.
What a remarkable metaphor for the retirement experience. There are and will always be dark days in retirement. But even with darkness there is still light. We have to train ourselves to look for it and to remember that behind cloudy skies the sun is still shining. We are the light in our lives. We have the power to choose our focus and what we focus on increases whether we acknowledge and admit it or not.
I had a particularly hard day yesterday. I was dealing with a very difficult situation and I was in a place where I could not be comforted. The efforts of those in my life to do so frustrated me. In fact, their efforts annoyed me and I reacted badly. Finally, I went to bed early knowing that sometimes the only way to deal with a situation is to sleep on it.
When I awakened this morning, I did not feel particularly better. I knew I had to make a choice about how I was going to act and react today. I crept downstairs and curled up with my iPhone and listened to a podcast. The message I heard was exactly what I needed and my spirits began to lift. I wasn’t out of the dumps yet, but I was on my way.
Then, as I started to write this post, I decided to listen to seasonal music on Pandora. There is a Christmas carol that has great meaning for me. When I hear it, it is a sign to me that all is well, that there is purpose and meaning to life, and that God is with me. Before hitting “play” I briefly argued with myself about how I would feel if I didn’t hear it. “It doesn’t matter,” I told myself knowing full well that it mattered a great deal to me. As the familiar first strains of music came over the speaker, I burst into tears. My favorite carol was the first song I heard.
Sometimes we need a sign to remind us that we are not alone in this experience. We all have days that challenge us, humble us, or even defeat us. We are asked to find strength we may not believe that we have. That is one reason I write this blog – to encourage other baby boomers who may be struggling, to share hope and strength.
Retirement is like life – filled with ups and downs, challenges and blessings, change and status quo, joy and grief, love and letting go. It is a period of intense personal growth that catches some by surprise. Will you accept the challenge before you to know yourself, find your purpose, share your gifts, bear burdens you do not want, inspired and encourage others, make a difference and grow? A life well lived is still possible. Your path may take unexpected twists and turns. Let faith, hope, and love guide you to your final destination.