Your work is to discover your work and then
with all your heart to give yourself to it. — BUDDHA
he concept of the golden years originated as a public-relations program designed to make sixty-somethings feel good about their forced ousting from the workplace. In fact, retirement isn’t a natural part of the human life cycle. It annoys me that retirement was, and still is, a social engineering experiment designed to move older, supposedly useless workers out of the workplace to make room for the young.
On the positive side, though, as a retiree or person nearing retirement, you now have the opportunity to go where your heart leads you. You can also get lost or run in circles. To know where you’re going and how to get there, you need a map. Even if you look forward to retirement, you’re giving up an identity and need to create a new one.
When you engage in what you were put on this earth to do, the activity is exhilarating and interesting. The work begets energy, health, and happiness while also helping to deflect tension and stress.
As a woman ages, a sense of urgency may grow as it becomes more important to do something meaningful and satisfying with the remainder of her life. Where do you go next? Attend art school? Take a computer class? Start a home business? In the grip of life’s demands— making a living, serving a family’s needs—it’s easy to lose a sense of self. But it’s always there—a thread of identity that runs from childhood through all the years following. Making good choices means discovering your true passions and what gives you true joy.
I like what Lavinia Russ wrote: “When death comes for me, I hope I’ll be so busy working and laughing, I won’t hear his knock. He’ll have to break down the door to get in.”
REACTIVATE YOUR DREAM
This is the real fear . . . not death or decrepitude but the dread that you’ll inevitably turn into someone else, someone who doesn’t live an exciting life or have exciting dreams. — BARBARA SHER
If your earliest career decisions were driven by the need to make money or a life decision to be at home with your family, the second half of your life can be driven by the fondest desires that you set aside in your youth. If the social and financial pressures of making money had never existed, what would you have done differently?
At some point, many women feel unfulfilled in their lives or their careers, no matter how successful they feel they’ve been. To revisit and reactivate your dreams without giving up what you have achieved so far, begin by imagining that you no longer need to win approval for being beautiful, strong, or successful.
Notice what you love—reading magazines, listening to music, playing tennis, being in the country. These loves are clues to your hidden desires. Many of your dreams may have come true already, and some may not be important anymore. The point is, you need to reconnect with your inner passions and find practical ways to act on them.
Break the pursuit down into small, manageable steps, and explore them one at a time. This gentle process will help you move closer to feeling satisfied with your life. It will also allow you to recognize early on that a dream may no longer be worth the effort it would take to make it so.
A step-by-step approach will let you see that there are many different ways to enjoy your dream. For example, you can pursue your passion to be a writer by taking classes in the evening . . . or by merely reading about what steps other authors have taken to become published. Taking a class would give you with the fulfillment that comes from taking one step toward realizing your dream.
What dream would you like to reactivate? What small step can you take today toward living your passion?
DOING WHAT YOU LOVE
Trust in what you love, continue to do it,
and it will take you where you need to go. — NATALIE GOLDBERG
I read in the Los Angeles Times that an eighty-year-old woman started parachute jumping when she was seventy-five. This fearless woman is representative of thousands of venturesome women in America who have passed well beyond the half-century mark. Some are blessed with good health and are determined to continue what they’ve always done, or what they’ve always wanted to do.
I don’t enjoy the concept of mortality—or jumping out of planes, for that matter. However, thinking about the limited time we do have on this planet focuses my attention on how to meaningfully and effectively spend the days that are left. So here’s the pivotal question: how do we discover our own natural talents and apply them in today’s world?
Amy, a fifty-six-year-old mother and veterinarian, told me she thought about what she wanted to do all the time—sketch and paint— but was waiting until the kids were fully out on their own to do it. Other women told me they didn’t have enough time to figure out what they would do if they had the time.
Try not to be fearful; listen to your inner whisperings; allow your higher power to guide you. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote, “Essentially what happens when you begin to do what you love is that you get a new employer: Spirit.”
You’ve had rich life experiences, and you’ve acquired an extensive array of interests and abilities. Based on your life experiences, ask your self: What do I like? What do I do well?
By selecting job, volunteer, or career opportunities that fit your personal values, skills, and ideal work environment, you will achieve lasting satisfaction and a sense of self-worth. What things interest you most? What skills give you the most satisfaction and energy? Take stock of your present options, and create a vision for your future.
Consider creating a bridge between your spiritual self and your life’s work. This means taking the essence of who you are and what you believe into your work space. If kindness, patience, honesty, and generosity are spiritual qualities that you believe in, make every effort to practice them in what you do.
What did you want to be when you were a younger girl, before someone insensitive told you it wasn’t possible?
DO YOU HAVE A CALLING?
I believe there’s a calling for all of us. . . .
The real work of our lives is to become aware.
And awakened. To answer the call. — OPRAH WINfREY
Do you have a calling? A calling is about your vocation, whether it is work, relationship, lifestyle, or service. It’s about the search for personal meaning, which is a major developmental task of aging. Your heart may be calling you to do something (become self-employed, go back to school, volunteer, leave or start a relationship, move to the country, or change careers, for example). Your soul may be calling you to be something (more creative, less judgmental, more loving, or less fearful).
You may feel that insurmountable obstacles are getting in your way. Many women hesitate to answer an authentic calling because they’re caught between the circumstances of their lives and creative choice. If you have it in your heart to play the piano, start a business, paint a picture, write a poem, or sing a song, then find a way to do it; don’t let anything stop you.
Remember that you were born with the potential for the unfolding of your true self. If you deviate from that truth, you interfere with the intention of something far greater than you are, and as a result, you run the risk of developing discomfort in your body and psyche. In fact, the symptoms of anxiety might be regarded as a message from a powerful force within you that wants you to be yourself.
Most women yearn to know their purpose in life. Perhaps your calling has to do with service to others. We come into life with nothing, and we leave it with nothing. The truth is, we can’t take what we acquire and achieve with us. The most important thing you can do with your life is give to others.
Whenever you feel lost or unsure, remind yourself that your purpose is about giving. Direct your thoughts away from yourself, and spend the next few hours looking for ways to be of service to someone or something else.
Here is some wisdom from one of my favorite authors, Helen Nearing, who at eighty-nine wrote, “The universe is immense and gorgeous and magnificent. I salute it. Every speck, every little fly on the window salutes the Universe. Every leaf has its meaning. I think the Universe is expanding—it is experiencing and accomplishing. And we have the opportunity to add to its glow.”
If money and time were no obstacle, what would you be doing with your life?
Set your sights high, the higher the better.
Expect the most wonderful things to happen,
not in the future but right now. — EILEEN CADDY
Every age offers something you haven’t experienced before (and I’m not talking about wrinkles and arthritis). At every age, you have an opportunity to star in your own adventure, to write and produce your own play. You can decide if life is an adventure or a chore.
Sometimes our life’s purpose and success sneak up on us unexpectedly, as with Liz Smith, columnist and TV journalist, who said, “The best thing that happened to me in old age was that I got to be successful after I was about to retire.”
You have choices. Or do you want to follow conventional wisdom and fall back on a model of dependency? Do you find yourself spending a lot of energy lamenting your youth—energy that you could be put ting into your next venture?
What are your thoughts on staying involved and engaged in the world?
©2005, 2014 by Pamela D. Blair. All Rights Reserved.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. www.redwheelweiser.com
About the Author
Pamela D. Blair, PhD, is a holistic psychotherapist, spiritual counselor, and personal coach with a private practice. She has written for numerous magazines, appeared on radio and television talk shows, and co-authored a bestselling book on grief entitled I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye. She is also the author of The Next Fifty Years: A Guide for Women at Midlife and Beyond. As a therapist, she is known for her holistic approach and her innovative personal growth workshops. She lives in Shelburne, VT. Visit her online at www.pamblair.com.
Watch an interview: Author Pamela Blair and "Getting Older Better"