I am at another crossroads. Perhaps you can relate.
- I have just celebrated another birthday—my 75th
- I have just returned from vacation—before I was ready
- Fall has arrived—and I haven’t completed summer
- I am preparing for a new workshop series with new ideas
- I am feeling a call to take a different path
from the one I have been following for 8-10 years
- I am considering retiring, again
Note the adjective “another” above. This is not my first time here. You and I have been at many at a crossroads. Sometimes more than once at the same one. Indeed, being here again seems to be a normal part of a growing, expanding, evolving, and maturing life. Yet experience affirms that too often we simply barge through our crossroads without giving much thought to them, or our actions or decisions, or considering our options. This reflection is about how I did that recently, to my detriment.
At times of transition, such as re-engaging my life following my recent vacation, it has long been my habit to consciously reflect on what is currently important to me in my life, rather than simply pickup where I left off. This is one aspect of my practice of Conscious Aging as a Spiritual Practice (CASP), where I take the time necessary to think about what gives meaning, purpose, and satisfying direction to my life currently, and what does not. Then to pay attention to what I find, and act accordingly.
In my current situation I am once again facing many of the same issues and questions I’ve dealt with before. This time in a new context and on a higher plane. This is quite normal for maturing people feeling the transition stirrings of midlife, or facing retirement and considering their future; especially those who find themselves unexpectedly and unintentionally retired. Particularly those with a difficult life story.
It is easy, common even, to get so wrapped up in the momentum and trajectory of one day turning into the next that we take for granted that our future will, or should, be pretty much a simple extension of our past. This means we often neglect the opportunity to stop, step back, and consider how much of what we have been doing is really what we want to be doing now and going forward. For instance, in the lead up to our recent vacation I was so caught up preparing for my post-vacation plans that I lost sight of why I wanted to do them at all. That is to provide meaning and purpose in my retirement life. As a result, I was ill prepared to enjoy the first week of my vacation. Moreover, on my return to “work” I stepped right back into where I left off, planning for our upcoming retreat: Before I felt spiritually renewed from my vacation; and before I had taken time to think if what I was planning is really was want I want to do now.
For years I have been happily practicing my retirement vocation of writing curricula, facilitating retreats and workshops, and providing personal coaching related to helping others find and experience shalom, direction and contentment in their own major life transitions. Although I found this spiritually satisfying, I became so enmeshed in doing it that I didn’t realize my vocational interests had shifted. This kept me so busy I had little time or energy for other important things. Like preparing for my self-nurturing vacation.
As I too quickly reconnected with my post-vacation preparation for our Nov. 17 retreat and facilitated discussion, Paths to Contentment in Midlife and Retirement, I realized I was discontented with my plans. Because I have outgrown significant aspects of my previous vocational interest. Simply put, as I reflected on what I had written over the past 15 months, about my personal Quest for Contentment, I realized some aspects of my vocational motivation had been satisfied. I also found myself with maturing new interests that are now vying for attention and expression, time and energy, and calling me in a new direction.
So, I now realize it is time, again, for me to follow my own advice: To jettison what is no longer nurturing my soul in order to take hold of new interests vying for my late-life time, attention, and energy. Thus, I will be an active participant in the Nov. 17 retreat and workshop I will be facilitating. My aim will be to clarify what is most important to me now; and how to reorient my retirement life to do more of that, and less of what no longer satisfies me fully. As we discuss concepts of contentment, fulfillment, happiness, and successful aging, I will be actively considering how to reshape my own retirement to make room for important life-completing soul-nurturing interests. Some of which have been sidelined for too long, some of which have risen anew. And I’ll be encouraging other participants to do the same.
One important thing I’ve learned from my years of facilitating retreats, workshops, and working privately with clients, is that a maturing life is dynamic. It evolves and grows and shifts as we participate in it. Some goals get met, some get jettisoned, and new ones arise. Also, that our future does not inevitably follow all that preceded, or lead to where we anticipated. Moreover, however long it takes to remember, I’ve learned that when I feel dis-contented or un-satisfied with my evolving life, then it’s time to consciously take stock and change course in order to do more of what provides meaning and purpose for me now, and less of what doesn’t. Also, that I have the ability, right, and independence to do that.
That said, I have also learned this process is much easier said than done; and takes whatever time it takes. Which is why our Paths to Contentment in Midlife and Retirement retreat will focus on the importance of Conscious Aging as a Spiritual Practice as one way to consider what contentment, fulfillment, happiness, and successful aging mean in everyday practice for all of us now. I hope to see you there.