The Elder’s Journey
There comes a time in everyone’s life – usually around the age of 60 – when the writing that has always been on the wall begins to appear like a mirage in a desert.
Tired, out of steam, out of lesson plans, corporate strategies or sales pitches or maybe just out of breath from puffing your way to the top … at the end of a long road lined with achievements, kudos and a few well-deserved lessons along the way, the letters appear faint in the distance of a vaguely remembered sweetness. The indefatigable ego that has pushed you relentlessly for years tries to convince you that, of course, your mind is playing tricks on you. But, actually, it is your spirit that is playing with you. A spirit thirsty for something else, something simpler, lighter, more generous than routine. A spirit weary of the busyness of productivity and hungry for the stillness of creativity. A spirit in need of refirement.
Yes, friends, that’s refirement not retirement. Contrary to the thinly disguised mixed messages of glossy ads for 55+ communities and pharmaceutical companies, you are not retiring into the limbo of locked-down safe condos and prescription drug-assisted living. Ok, maybe, that was not your idea of retirement. The point is that whatever you thought, hope or feared was going to happen in retirement (lovingly referred to henceforth as refirement), like everything else in your life, it is probably not going to happen. And that’s because what you see in the distance is not the waiting room to the afterlife but the playground of the rest of your life. Ye gads! Wake up! If ever there was a time to enjoy life, it’s now!
The kids are gone (maybe). Do you really need all that room, all that backyard, all those pictures, all those chachkas, all those old sneakers in the mud room? Maybe, this is an occasion for whimsy. Consider letting go, breaking away, taking to the road (literal or figurative) and getting into the skins of your own adventurous life (check out the PLAY page on this website). For some folks, it’s the cabin in the mountains. Or the apartment in the city. Or the RV by the ocean. Or that backpack in the basement that is begging to romp around Europe. For others, it is staying put by letting your spirit wander into the things you always wanted to do but never had the time or the courage. Maybe, now you can write that short story or memoir. Or have some fun with primary colors and a blank canvas. Maybe, you’d like to spin the pottery wheel, or carve some wood, or serve meals at the local shelter. Maybe, you just want to get on all fours with the grandkids while you are able to get back up again. Then again, sitting quietly in the morning and watching the hummingbirds on the porch might just be enough. Or sneaking a snooze on the beach to the sound of of the surf. Perhaps, you want to travel even lighter and simply observe what happens in an uninterrupted day.
How can you tell if you are ready to refire? Simple. You are grateful for the chance to play again. Not everyone gets here for any number of reasons. No need to point them out. Bottom line is now that you are here, the best way to say thank you is to unabashedly and enthusiastically roam the nooks and crannies of your imagination to discover the many delicious ways to pass it on (and you get to name the “it”) before moving on.
Call it a swan song. Call it a victory lap. Call it your last hurrah. You’ll be wrong. That’s retirement. This is refirement. This is about revving up the engines and going places you have always wanted to go. This is about sparks not embers. This is about falling in love with life all over again so that you can truly serve the world from a full and joyful heart released from the burden of accomplishment.
Refirement isn’t the roller coaster ride of falling down and getting up as many times as it takes to figure out that life ain’t just about you. That’s the hero and heroine’s journey. You’ve been there, done that, and hopefully learned from it.
Refirement is a wholehearted bungee jump into the wonders of your wisdom years.
I call this the elder’s journey and in the following posts I invite you to travel along with me into the unchartered unexpected of the best years of our lives.