A few years ago I made a gratitude journal listing all the things in life for which I was grateful. My husband, my daughters, grandchildren, extended family, love, friends, our cats, good health, good jobs, financial stability, a comfortable home, food in my garden and on the table. As I counted my blessings, the list grew and grew. For a while, I continued to write down, with each new day, the things for which I was grateful. A beautiful sunrise. Flowers in my garden. A kind smile from a stranger. Then, for whatever reason, life got in the way or I just plain got lazy, I stopped writing about my gratitude for the everyday gifts. This weekend, I pulled open a drawer and there was the journal. On its cover are the words, Inspire, Dream, Hope, Believe, Imagine, Create. Suddenly, I realized, these words describe what I want my retirement journey to be.
It’s been four months since we retired. And, after four months, we’re finally getting the hang of it. We’re finally starting to get into a rhythm of life without the structure of a career, which isn’t a rhythm at all. It’s more of an improvisation. We’re relaxing more. We’re enjoying more. Each day is a fresh chance for a new adventure. A new exploration. We can do nothing at all or we can start a new hobby or work on an old one or read a new book or get in the car or on the motorcycle and drive to wherever we want. It’s been a while in coming, but as I looked at the cover of my gratitude journal, I realized retirement is not a destination. It’s a journey.
Now, as I think about my journey, I open the cover and revisit my gratitude lists. And, I add another item. I am grateful I have the opportunity to make this journey. Many others have died before they had the chance to enjoy this season of life. So, I thank God for giving me each new day at this age, in this way. And, I thank Him for giving me the wisdom to recognize the opportunity. As I continue reading, I feel a certain excitement thinking about the possibilities for my journey.
I know it’s February 18 but resolutions aren’t reserved solely for New Year’s Day. So, I also make a resolution this day to stop complaining about aging. In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a few news stories about how the baby boom generation is in worse health than their parents’ generation at this age. Our poorer health is due to the way we eat and don’t exercise. So, there are more of us already in wheel chairs or using canes. More of us are diabetics and have heart disease. Really depressing stuff. But, that’s not me. Even with all my health issues, which are truly normal aging issues, my health age is 53 not my biological age of 60. Martin, who bicycles about 100 miles a week, is even better off than I am. With my garden, we eat well, watch our diet and we exercise. So, today I stop whining about getting old! I’m in great shape! Oh, yes, I’m adding this to my gratitude journal along with note to self, “Do not whine about aging!”
Over the past few months, through a combination of writing this blog, research and actually living the transition into retirement, I’ve concluded life in retirement is no different from working life in that we need purpose. Retirees who continue to live their lives with purpose are happier. I’m not sure what my purpose is. Perhaps, it’s simply to carry on with my loving family, my love of gardening and mentoring other gardeners through the Master Gardener Program, painting and making art out of gourds and supporting SAFE Homes/Rape Crisis Coalition. But, whatever my purpose, I know my retirement is a journey, not a destination. This is a season of my life for which I am grateful.