To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

When I was struggling with the question of when or how to retire, first, I made the decision for myself, prayerfully and privately, and lived with it for a while, without telling anyone. I have used this process whenever I had to make a really big decision that would affect others. So I began walking around with that decision, envisioning what life would be like if I did not need to set an alarm every weekday and Sunday morning, and go to my office or the church. How would I experience my life without these daily routines? It was appealing in many ways – more sleep, less stress, more exercise, fewer responsibilities. It all felt good! Then I discussed it with my family and heard their expectations – better lunches, more availability to babysit, more time to travel, more time together. But will I have time to be alone – to read, pray, practice piano, draw or meet with friends? I began to fear that retirement meant giving myself to my family, whom I love, but where will “ME” be in retirement?

Retirement feels like another important stage of life. But in most other stages of life, or transitions, there are opportunities for preparation. E.g. college orientation; pre-marital counseling; child-birth and parenting classes; 12-step programs. Where do I go to learn how to retire? I’ve done the financial planning, and we did save for retirement. But it’s the spiritual and emotional planning that I need. It is not surprising that there is not a single word in the Bible about retiring. It is not a biblical concept. Faithful Jews and Christians observed the Sabbath as a day of worship, rest and work was not permitted. Perhaps they eventually stopped working when they couldn’t because they were frail or ill. Retirement is the gift of living longer, and hopefully still with energy and ability to do new things.

God said, “It is not good that man should be alone”. Women also know it is not good to be alone, and so we often seek out groups with whom we gather to talk about books or while we knit or quilt. It’s the sharing that draws us together. There are ROMEO (retired old men eat out) groups, but are there ROWET (retired old women eat & talk) groups? Gratefully, a few women parishioners who have retired have invited me to lunch to chat about how they retired. I googled “retired women” and found blogs, websites and links to “Graceful Retirement”, “Boomers Forever”, and books such as For the First Time: One Woman’s Journey from Career to Retirement. I realized that, as a woman of the Baby Boom generation, we were the first to enter the professional world in large numbers, and we are the first generation to retire in large numbers. There are a lot of us in this transition, and more to come. We are pioneers of a generation that rallied for Equal Rights, Equal Pay and Equal Voice in schools, churches, corporations and government. I wonder what we will do next? Ulysses provides me with a vision.

Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved the earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

— from Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson

This entry was posted in The Rev. Dr. Carol M. Flett and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

  1. Dennis Jones says:

    Carol, I can attest that it’s not an easy transition, but it gets better. Funnily, many who have to deal with work as drudgery or not much better tend to hanker after retirement, and will feel jealous that you have reached that point. It may help to seek out other retirees (as well as the growing numbers of involuntarily unemployed) who may give you inspiration from the fact that many struggle with the change. It offers a fresh start and that is very good. I try to think of being a tree who now gets to choose which spot in the garden will be mine: that’s a nice freedom, I think.

  2. John Daniel reaves says:

    I can’t recall when I first heard ( or who I heard if from) that the word “retirement” should be replaced with “transition-ing”. Taking “retirement” a bit further, my view is that “retirement” occurs when one dies and this life is over. Bam! Done! Transitioning has a positive feel to it. I can imagine that a person imbued with professional talents and superb pastoral abilities, such as Carol, would find life a vacuum without some time assigned to those abilities, whether in counseling or training or writing and educating the whole. So time for family, time for oneself and a fraction of time spent doing with others what one has always been good at. –JDR

  3. Marty Kerns says:

    Dear Carol,

    Thank you for shearing your outlook on retierment. As I have sheared with you my retirement date is April 30 just one day before yours. I look forward to being able to do the things that Faye and I want to do whenever and whatever. But it is still disconcerting that we – you and I are loosing part of our idenity.

    We have to realize that New Doors are opening and that old doors willnever be fully closed.

    God’s peace.

    Marty Kerns

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