For weeks I’ve been thinking about how I want to spend the rest of my life. I retired 15 years ago and have done everything I wanted to do from attending concerts and plays, volunteering at church, writing a book, and taking a few dozen writing and humanities courses.
My thinking about the future started last fall while I was working on my latest endeavor, writing a novel. I was in the second year of an ongoing novel workshop with an excellent teacher and felt privileged as a nonfiction writer to have been included in this group. Novels are about 300 pages long, and I was working on pages 60 to 90 when it slowly dawned on me that I didn’t want to spend a few of the precious years I have left to write and then revise a novel.
When I discussed my concerns with the teacher, he graciously talked with me about how I could wind up my story in the 30 pages I’d submit this spring, making it a novella instead. He wanted me to feel like my time was not wasted in the workshop and to have a finished product when and if I decide to drop.
No learning experience is ever wasted! I’ve learned lots and am now completing the final pages, 90 to 120. (This is still a first draft, however, and will take a serious revision to polish up!)
After my discussion with the teacher, I felt relieved and started on a quest of asking every retired person I ran into how they were finding meaning in their lives, none of which interested me, so I was back to square one. What would work for me?
I read a how-to book by Daniel Henderson¹ on how to live a “deeper life,”a detailed step-by-step approach to determine who I am as an image-bearer of Christ and how to live out that mission.
Since I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up, I was comforted by Henderson’s words that to embark on this journey: “We need to trust God” (p. 21). The exact words, trust God, one of my older sisters told me when I was contemplating retirement and wondering how I would fill my time (Caring Lessons, p. 215).
And I’ve not had an hour of boredom in the 15 years of my retirement.
Then my ears pricked up on p. 131 when Henderson says “Time is a ‘stewardship’ because our lives are not our own…In reality, it is God’s time. Since it is His, we’d better be careful what we do with it.”
Oh, my. This reminded me of an 84-year-old respondent in my doctoral research; when I asked him how he defined leisure, he said, with his Dutch brogue and a twinkle in his eye: “I am the author of that time, you might as well say…I am not under somebody…you are your own boss…We are Christians. And we know that if it comes down to it, there is no time really for yourself. It’s God’s time”.
He went on to say that “whatever you do, do everything to the honor and glory of God. ” And finished up with “And I think that includes a little joke once in a while too.”² He was a marvelous witness for me. A good reminder that our time is not our time. It’s God’s time. Think about that. What a gift! What a responsibility.
More on my quest: I attended an adult education class at my church where the presentation was on something like living the abundant life. When I saw it in the bulletin, I had to go. My college-age grandson was visiting that weekend, and I asked him if he’d like to go. Sure, so we went together. Key points in that session showed us how to determine our strengths as defined by the Gallup organization: Strengths are things we can do consistently at a near-perfect level, and The acid test: We can see ourselves engaging this strength repeatedly and enjoyably.(gallupstrengthscenter.com)
Wow. This was dynamite for me. No wonder I’ve failed at some of the things I’ve thought I should do. I took from this that if stuff is going to work for me I have to do it well (or be interested in learning to do it well) and then enjoy it when I do it.
(A bonus of this session was that my grandson told me he had taken the same strengths inventory at his college!)
Just this past weekend, my son put me on to another book, saying, “Mom, this may help you in your quest.” He’s a financial adviser who looks not only at the financial capital of his clients but also their human capital, items such as what contributes to their well-being, fulfillment, and legacy (p. 65)³. One exercise in determining priorities caught my eye: “What energizes you each day?” (p. 73.)
That fits right in with my “strengths” inventory.
This is only a smattering of my search (my husband says not everybody obsesses about such things as I do!), and I still don’t have definitive answers, but I am learning once again to trust God.
So, on this event of turning 74 (my birthday was yesterday), I’m thinking, having always been an antsy type, about one of my favorite verses in the Bible: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought” (Matthew 5, The Message).
And, readers, those of you who are also aging, know that we have to cope with increasing limitations, and I hope that, along with me, we remind ourselves to be content and not compare our accomplishments, or lack of, with our friends and neighbors, and to be content to listen to our bodies and just plain take care of ourselves!
And that means I hope I don’t fracture any more ribs anytime soon! After five weeks, they are still very much in healing mode.
¹ Daniel Henderson. 2014. The Deeper Life: Satisfying the 8 Vital Longings for Your Soul. Mpls: Bethany House.
²Lois Roelofs. 1991. The Meaning of Leisure for Older Persons, University of Illinois at Chicago, Health Sciences Center, Dissertation Abstracts International, 134 pages; 9213145.
³Krysty Kaycee (with Robert Moser). 2012. Wealth Regeneration at Retirement. Hoboken: Wiley & Sons.
And my nursing career memoir, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self was published in 2010 by Deep River Books.