Thinking Out Loud 1/18/2015

I’ve been re-reading Joan Chittister’s wonderful book, The Gift of Years.  I blazed through it quickly several months ago, picked out a few statements that seemed relevant, then quickly moved on.  This time the book is touching me as though I’m personal friends with the author, and she is writing exclusively to me .  I’ve highlighted so much of each page with my pink pen that basically the only words UN-highlighted are the “a’s, and’s, and the’s”.

The book is aimed at the “older” generation, and Chittister separates that group into three stages – the young old (65-74), the old old (75-84); and the oldest old (85 and older).  I have to admit it’s been a long time since I’ve been called the “young” anything, so I was immediately uplifted to find myself still solidly in the young old group. The book focuses a lot on what we do with – and for – ourselves after retirement.  I love this particular line: What am I when I am not what I used to do?  Our society is so tied to who and what we are during our working years that it’s a big change when we are suddenly not working and can no longer identify ourselves by our careers.

Until recently I never gave that question much thought.  As soon as Ted and I retired, we immediately jumped into buying a summer home on Mackinac Island and began to live two lives instead of one.  For six months we were Georgians and enjoyed ri’vah life, and for six months we were summer residents of Mackinac.  We filled our days in both places with volunteer work, meeting/dining/visiting with friends, exercise, and reading. We were retirees – very happy and busy ones.

Moving to Florida has been like retiring all over again – only this time I suddenly understand how many people feel when they first leave the work force.  There’s a sense of “what next?”  What do I do now?  How do I define myself if I not only don’t have a career, but I’m also separated from everything and everyone I love in both Georgia and Michigan?

As Floridians, we find ourselves beginning to make progress.  We have a beautiful house across the street from the Atlantic.  We are near family, and we are making friends.  We are visiting churches.  Once again we are reaching out because to do otherwise is to give up the joy of what lies ahead. 

Crittister says it like this: We have the joy of immunity from propriety now.  Like children on a beach, we can decide whether we will wear sandals or go barefoot through life from now on.  We can decide to walk gently through this last great stage of life when everything begins to come together for us, to make sense, to have new meaning.  We can simply sit and watch a sunset, since we are not rushing home through traffic as the sun goes down.  We can walk across the lawn in the morning dew, smell the grass and pick a dandelion, because, like the glorious rose, it has a beauty of its own, as do all things, if we will only learn to look for it.  We can be happy to be sixty or seventy or eighty – to be where we’ve been, to know what we know, to have today to do even more.  We can decide to smile at everyone we meet, to play with children, to talk to seniors, to ask questions of youngsters – and this time to listen to their answers.  We can determine to pursue something new today, become a learner again, and feel the excitement that begins to rise in us when we do.  We can decide to give ourselves to those who have no one else but us to count on for quality of life themselves.  Now we have it all: opportunity, freedom, and the sense to know what those things demand of us.  We have a chance to be the best self we have ever been.  And we have the chance to help others do the same.  We can wake up one morning and find ourselves drunk with the very thought of being alive.

As the days march on and the ripples of our lives here in Florida begin to widen, I look forward to all that is before us.  On my calendar this week in big letters:  FIND A PLACE TO VOLUNTEER!  To be clay, soft and pliable – open to possibilities, to new beginnings.  I can’t wait to see where this will lead . . . . .

God bless.

16 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud 1/18/2015

  1. So beautifully said, Bree. Your words brought a tear to my eye, but I don’t know if it is a sad tear or a happy one. I’ll have to figure that out. I loved every word and I need to apply your thoughts to my life. I really should! Thank you. I see you chose to go barefoot……..at least in the sand.

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  2. You sound so much like me even though I’m still solidly in the workforce years. If I can’t find a way to volunteer somewhere, I’m not happy.

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  3. Thank you, Brenda. During my 12 1/2 years of retirement I have kept grandchildren, taught a lady’s Sunday School Class and been active with friends. Things have recently changed with a new church and all the grands now living in other towns. I have been feeling like a lost puppy. Your post has inspired me at a time when I really needed it! If course, I love reading all your posts.

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  4. Brenda,
    This could not have been more eloquently said of your lives and ours at this point.
    My dear, have you ever thought of telling stories to the youngster..aka lil tiny folks.
    As well as extreme senior as my folks and their circle refer to themselves …..
    They would love you!
    I work with tiny’s at this point and they just can’t get enough of a great story, yours or a book.
    I also must vote for barefoot/ no flip flops in the snow..lol..

    By the way, first grades in straight A’s …..wheeeee!
    I love my choice of what I added to my life.. It also put
    me with young adults. Oh boy are they funny…

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  5. Your post makes me think about how miserable I’ve eventually been at just about every job I’ve taken. I need to figure out how to make the job be “what I do to support myself while I do what I REALLY came here on this Earth to do.”

    But first I need to figure out what I really came here on this Earth to do. I think it might have something to do with being inspired by my surroundings and finding pleasure in the small things, but I’m still working on that.

    Thanks for the advice!

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