By Lynn Magdol
I recently observed an anniversary and it got me thinking. No, this one was not a wedding anniversary. It was the date on which I retired from work. Like a marriage, though, this transition has also involved changes in roles, identities and activities. Unlike a wedding ceremony, an event that occurs on a single date, the adjustment to retirement has stretched out over a number of years.
In the course of time, some things have changed while some have stayed the same. In fact, I realize now that this transition has been composed not only of some things that are old and some things that are new, but has also brought things that are borrowed and things that are blue.
The old things are the routines that I maintain from my working life. Getting up early and enjoying that first cup of coffee with the newspaper sitting right there at the front door of our beautiful house in a beautiful old neighborhood where we hope to stay forever. Working with fabric and thread, something I have loved all my life. The daily predinner drink with spouse and cat to take some time out and make the shift from day into evening, followed by a home-cooked meal. Scrabble games and movies in the evening. The 10 o’clock news. These old things give me continuity and comfort.
Then there are the new things. Having enough time, never having to rush. Our daily walk. Membership at a gym at greatly reduced senior rates. Other senior discounts that make me feel valued and recognized by society for my previous years of hard work. My short-lived attempts at tai chi and learning to ice skate. Ramping up my gardening skills with classes and workshops. Reading novels in English and French to stretch my mind. Meeting new people as I join new organizations. Learning to hang wallpaper. The new things provide stimulation and challenges that help to keep me young.
What about the borrowed things? I borrow from the public good whenever we walk on the city sidewalks for our daily exercise. I borrow books, music CDs and DVDs from the library almost every week. On the rare but highly valued occasions when I enjoy intergenerational contact, I feel I am borrowing someone else’s children or grandchildren. When traveling or visiting, I am happy to borrow beds from hotels or from spare rooms. The borrowed things remind me that we are all connected and interdependent.
And then there are the blue things. Blue being my favorite color, I especially enjoy wearing comfortable old jeans on most days. Unfortunately, there is also another kind of blue that comes with aging, and that is the blue of sadness. So many people in my life have died or experienced serious health problems. So many people from my past are too far away. Our water and air are so badly degraded. Our national politics are so messed up. The blue things keep me humble and realistic about my own future. They inspire me to fortify myself, not to give in, to forge ahead and work to improve things.
This anniversary marks quite a few years since I stopped working for pay. I have loved this period of my life. Now it is time to realize that the honeymoon is over, so to speak. After this initial transition time, I can look ahead to many more productive years with new and exciting challenges.
The future looks bright and I can be sure that it will be filled with continuity, change, connectedness and, yes, sadness. I am ready.