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To Retire

RainSomewhere, lost in the obligations and responsibilities of day-to-day life, buried under the rubble of forgotten things, a bright orb of thought shines in the darkness. It is here that I begin again, picking up the pen to tell a story:

A lifetime of work behind me, for the moment—I find myself “retired,” not even sure that I have any infinity at all with that word. To retire is to go to one’s room, shut the door and lie down. I am not ready for that. At the same time, I am not ready to take on the world with some great expertise and experience, but rather find a gentler middle ground that affords me mornings of tea and reading, hours of writing practice, walks among cottonwoods and a sense of gentle purpose that still allows for a contribution to the world in which I live.

Like a high school girl biting her nails in the guidance counselor’s office, I do not know what I want to do. All the while, I receive offers to consult on this or that, to plan and produce and to create a little something that flows into a checking account. I do not think that I am ready to give that up and yet there is a satisfied weariness in me that compels me to a greater quiet.

I have spent the last several weeks unwinding a clinical practice for my husband who doctored patients for 37 years. I worked with him for 24 of those years. The goodbyes were emotional and I ran around feeling like I had to take care of everyone. It left me tired and numb. A whirlwind of activity including a yearly retreat that I organized for 250 people topped it off and now, for the first time in the span of things, I am at my keyboard, my symbolic pen, trying to put my thoughts in an order that makes sense and brings me comfort.

It all seemed to go by so fast, schooling, friendships, marriage, work, the things that define you until you can get to the core of something else, something greater that doesn’t need a label.  I imagine my life a film, and what I desire now is a slow and interesting fade and not a sudden stop.

This morning I sat on the deck with my tea, as I often do, gazing at the fading stars and a bright half-moon. Hoping for a deep stillness, I was interrupted by a Labrador retriever who lives to have the tennis ball thrown. In his persistent and unrelenting manner, there was no peace, only the sound of the ball being dropped, panting and a blond dog jumping up and down as I acquiesced to the inevitable. Similarly with the state of things in my life now, a hope for quiet and a joyful disturbance that keeps saying “not quite yet.”   I suppose I should say “stay tuned. . .”


Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

19 thoughts on “To Retire

  1. This answers my “Where’s Stephanie?” question… and all I can say about this place where you are right now is – enjoy it for the moment. Enjoy the quiet and the contemplation. Savor the silence. Be grateful. What comes next is anyone’s guess, but I think there will very soon come a time when you come to recognize a nostalgia for this place in time…life is full and good and exciting, and it will find you if you are open to it. I get this feeling that you are. As much as retiring might mean to head up the stairs to bed, it can also mean withdrawing to the library where the sherry is poured and the real business of the day comes into the open…and you wonder how you ever had time to work 🙂

  2. Sounds awesome and I am envious though it ain’t over lady. Time for a new project? May I recommend the book It’s Only Too Late if you Don’t Start Now, by Barbara Sher?

  3. I can relate. Saturday night was my last night of work at the beach motel. The motel closed for the season on Sunday. I won’t be back next year. I’m “retired.” I too am unsure of the next step. Is my urge to strive on misguided? Does it come only from the ego? Would I find more reality (not to mention peace) in letting go and taking it easy, after all these years of work? I don’t know if it’s a fortunate or unfortunate coincidence, but I also have to pack up and move in the next few weeks. After that . . . what? Not ready to write about it yet.

    I have to ask (and please delete this question): Did you mean to say “affinity?” I can see how “infinity” could make sense in that context, in a way. But infinity is such a long time.

    1. Actually, I did mean “affinity” and my brain must not have been working all that well at 6:00 this morning! Your question made me laugh at myself–which is a good thing–so I left it in. Yes, infinity is a long time.

      I know what you mean about not quite ready to write about it. It’s kind of hard and a little strange to wrap your head around the idea of a clear road in front of you. Where is the instruction book for this next phase of life?

      Sending you all good wishes my retirement buddy. We have thus far lived a life that has morphed from “right on” all the way to “write on.” 😉

  4. Beautifully written post. Retirement is increasingly seen as a process rather than a final destination. Individuals might have a 10 year period, say, when the are in a ‘trial retirement’ and continue to work and save but with much more time off.

  5. Nice writing and nice time in your life. Mary Catherine Bateson calls this opportunity to be Adulthood II. I like the way you describe it and also the narrative she presents in her book Composing A Further Life, The Age of Active Wisdom. Perhaps you already have read it.

  6. Nice writing and nice time in your life. I never did grasp that word “retire” and my writings and talks are about financial freedom. You covered the topic beautifully! Mary Catherine Bateson calls this opportunity to be Adulthood II. I like the way you describe it and also the narrative she presents in her book Composing A Further Life, The Age of Active Wisdom. Perhaps you already have read it. Can’t wait to hear more.

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