Tag Archives: retirement

Out of Season

My Easter lilies are blooming in my little backyard flower garden. Yes, in July. One bloomed last October, too. Easter was early this year and the grouJuly Lily (1 of 1)nd was still frozen so I completely understand why neither one bloomed then. At least they are in sync with each other now.

It catches my attention when normal strays from its predicable path. I find it fascinating for a moment but then I want things to get back in line and behave themselves.

I am still early enough in retirement that I am not settled on the definition of normal for this time in my life. Everything was new the first year but now we are seeing cycles and seasons repeat. Last summer at this time I was excited about our big trip out West. We are not planning any special travel this year so I have turned my attention to other activities.

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation and I am hoping to join a special tour to Germany to celebrate that event. This will be a solo trip as there is only one interested party in this family. This summer I signed up with a temporary agency to earn some money to fund this little adventure.

The first job offered was five weeks of painting dorm rooms at a local college. I did not accept that opportunity. I vividly recall the physical effort it took to paint just three rooms when we prepared our house for sale and I knew I couldn’t manage that full-time for a month.

Another opportunity involved simple receptionist tasks. A week of doing nothing but answering the phone seemed reasonable and I was told to bring something to do between calls as it would be boring. I was surprised just how tiring it is to sit at desk all day and wait for the phone to ring. I averaged five calls during an eight hour day and had no computer or wireless access. I only had books and my e-reader.

I did take note of what the new hire would be doing to manage that office, however, and I realized that even though I was fully qualified to perform to expectations, I had no desire whatsoever to ever do that again. That spark apparently has been extinguished for good.

Like my garden Easter lilies blooming out of season, my experiences to date with being back in the workplace are out-of-the-norm. Whatever my normal is as a retiree, I want it back. I remember once having a card on my desk in my cubicle that urged me to “Bloom where you are planted.” My roots have taken hold in retirement and I sincerely hope that I can continue to grow them deeply in this enriching soil. Working short-term for a travel goal is tolerable but I am glad it is not a necessity at this time.

 

Blooming Cycles

African violets in the stores are always in full bloom. I am lured by their beauty and think that if they can thrive under harsh store lights, surely they will thrive in my home. Or not.

My grandmother had a beautiful array of these flowers in the window of her small, neighborhood grocery store and whenever we visited, they were in bloom. I’ve even seen them thrive in the cubical world at work and bloom repeatedly.

I’ve made several attempts over the years to enjoy these lovely plants. Once the original blooms die off, I never got them to bloom again. I tried various windows and researched how often to water and feed them. Each effort eventually ended in long seasons of healthy, green stems and leaves, but no flowers.

African Violets

African Violets

Now that I am retired, I thought I would give these flowers another try. I bought seven plants, all in full bloom. As before, the blossoms eventually died off and beautiful, evergreen leaves remained. But this time I was able to give them proper attention and, after several months, I saw tiny buds begin to form. By fall, all plants were in full bloom.

By fall, I was also back in the classroom after a 30+ year absence. I am a volunteer tutor two mornings a week. It took a few weeks, but gradually, my skills and enthusiasm returned. I was beginning to thrive again in an environment once very near and dear to my heart.

As I look back over the decades, I began to identify times in my life when I was involved in challenges and projects that brought out the best in me. In between those peaks were the evergreen times when there were no clusters of varied blooms, just routine, yet productive, days.

I have often thought of different phases of my life as growth cycles but not necessarily as blooming cycles. As I see the many activities I have already incorporated into my retirement lifestyle since February, I realize I am not only in a growth cycle but most definitely a blooming cycle. It is sweet.

Isaiah 40:8 reminds me that eventually these cycles of change will come to an end, but one thing will remain always:

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (NIV)

Changing from going to work every day to having multiple choices of how to live each day was a time of stress that yielded to a time of peace. Throughout it all, God’s Word sustained me with instruction and promise. My African violets remind me that whether my life is in an evergreen stage, a blooming stage, or eventually, a dying stage, God’s Word will not change. That is a source of great comfort to me.

 

 

 

 

Gallery

Waking Up Whimsey

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Rediscovering whimsey in retirement brings smiles. Continue reading

Found Object Art and Life

I am fascinated by art created from an assortment of objects that take on new meaning when collected into a composition. A visit to the Toledo Museum of Art a couple of years ago included an interactive display that allowed visitors to select objects from bins on a big table and create displays on small display shelves mounted along the wall. Not only was it fun to do one myself, it was interesting to see what others created.

What makes something art? Every person reacts to art in a personal way, giving weight to the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But there are common elements across the mediums of art that define what is pleasing to most people. Much of the attractiveness of a piece of art is due to composition, color and form.

I see a parallel in creating art from found objects to creating a lifestyle with what is found in my past and present life and what is in my dreams for the future. But what makes life “art” instead of just a collection of activities?

Pondering that, I go back to the basic principles of art. What is my life’s composition? How am I arranging my activities in the frame of each day? Artists pay attention to what is in the foreground, middle ground and background of their compositions. Composers and writers interpret that concept as introduction, development and conclusion. The goal is to draw the viewer, listener or reader into the work and entertain or educate them or just splash some sunlight on their souls or thoughts on their minds.

So I look at my interests and activities and think: what is in the foreground at this time of my life? What subject has my primary focus right now? What things are in the background, waiting for their turn to move into a different area of my attention?

Retirement was in the background for many years. I looked forward to it and slowly prepared for it as the years progressed. Then it moved into the middle of my attention where the planning took on greater detail and the dreams became more saturated. Finally, the time came for it to move front and center in the foreground.

How do I now take that foreground with its interests and activities and limitations and arrange it in such a way that is pleasing to me and and to others? Like the artist, I try different arrangements. I add and subtract things. I stand back and see if it “works”. Then I play around with it some more. I find this very entertaining.

As a child, I loved to do sidewalk chalk drawings and water paintings.   Along with playing in the sand, these creations lasted only as long as the environment allowed. Rain washed away the chalk drawings; the water paintings evaporated quickly. My little sand creations faced the risk of anything that came into my sandbox world. Now I know that it was the process of creating them that was satisfying, more so than preserving the results of my play.

This gives me some perspective on how to manage my life during this unique time of retirement. I realize that however I spend my days, it is living the day that counts as much as any lasting results that may come from what I do. I learn and grow from what I do and, like my childhood drawings, Jesus washes any my sins regularly.

Psalm 118:24 tells us “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Every day the Lord gives me is an opportunity to appreciate all that He has done, and will continue to do, for me.

Habits Are Life-Forming

A popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. This post considers the opposite: doing the same thing over and over again to get the expected result.

Routines are our friends and our foes. When they bring order and stability to our lives, they become cushions in our comfort zones. When they become boring or annoying, we break up with them.

Habits, however, are different from routines. A habit is much stronger than a routine. When a habit is performed often, it is done easily and almost mindlessly. And that is a key to its success when the behavior is beneficial to us and our downfall when it is not.

In the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, the habit loop is explored. The loop consists of a trigger, a routine and a reward. When the brain recognizes a trigger, a routine that has been learned and associated with that trigger kicks in. The reward comes when the routine is complete. The fascinating part to me was that numerous scientific studies show that as long as the trigger and the reward remain constant, ANY routine can be set between them. Knowing this is powerful. We can learn to recognize a trigger, its reward, and then choose the routine we want to happen. Repeat the set until the behavior is a habit you want to keep.

Some habits have been a part of my life for many decades. I was taught to pray from infancy and 65 years later prayer is as natural to me as breathing. Regular Bible reading is a habit I have modified over the years. Currently, I use the PrayNow (Concordia Publishing House) application on my iPad. The trigger is breakfast, the routine is opening the app and reading the day’s readings, the reward is that sense of being spiritually centered to start my day.

Habits

Music has been a regular habit in various forms. For many years, it was choir; the past ten years I have played in band, orchestra and flute choir groups. The trigger is a group to play with, the routine is to practice and participate, the reward is friends and the shared joy of music.

Retirement is an opportunity for sorting through habits and deliberately deciding which habits to keep, change or acquire. One of my early new habits is a regular cleaning schedule, a clear departure from my previous baseline-healthy or when-company-comes efforts. The trigger now is gratitude for the home I have and the time to clean it, the routine is established, and the reward is a spritz of Fabreze when I finish a room and I have that satisfaction that it is done.

Life in Elderhood can be shaped and designed to fit budget, health and interests. I have observed retirees who have not recognized the marvelous opportunity this stage in life offers for us to purposely order our habits to support happiness. While this opportunity is available in all stages of life, I have found it to be a challenge as I negotiate with retirement.

I am reminded of when I was a child and we visited our paternal grandmother. She owned a small neighborhood grocery store which included a marvelous glass case with penny candy for sale. Upon arrival, we were each given a nickel and we could either buy five pieces of candy for a penny each or blow the whole nickel on one candy bar. At the end of the visit we were given a small sack and we could fill it with twenty-five cents worth of goodies. We spent much time during our visit mulling over the choices that would go into that take-home bag.

Much mulling goes into my decision making now, too, as I explore and try out different ideas and test areas of interest. Which activities will support my need to  live a life that is productive and my desire to serve others? In earlier stages of life, the choices were primarily centered around getting an education and then developing and sustaining a career while steadily building a strong marriage. The remaining time slots for other activities were narrow. Now the field of opportunity is wide open and, like choosing the quarter’s worth of candy, it requires a lot of consideration.

I recently read an obituary of a stranger that ended with the words, “Her life was well-lived.” I think that is what I want people to say about my life. And I want it to be well-lived all the way to the very end, God willing.

It’s About Time

Time. We march through our days to the beat of time. It’s time to come in, time to go to bed, time to get up, time to go to school…work…appointments. The measure of time orders our activity. When do I have to leave to get from here to there? Do I put the make the potatoes first or put the roast in the oven? How long before that stretch of road is finally re-constructed?

The cycle of the seasons and movement of the heavenly bodies feeds our perception of time as a circle. It makes me think of the phrase “get around to it” and the many occasions when I have felt like I was running around in circles trying to manage everything in my area of responsibility.

We all dream of the day when we will finally have time to do everything we want to do. We think that time will come with retirement. I thought so. but one of the most surprising things I have learned in the near-four months of retirement so far is that I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do every day.

I am learning to value time in a different way than I did when I had less influence over how I spent it. I am thankful I still have the concept of time. As my mother moved into the destructive depths of dementia, one of the first things she lost mentally was the sense of time. She even lost the ability to measure a day by sunrise and sunset. I found over a dozen alarm clocks in a dresser drawer after she died. She couldn’t trust any of them to show her the correct time.

Time Keeper

If I super-impose a clock face over the span of my life, I am at about 40 minutes past the hour. Of course, God can stop my life clock at any moment but as I have no knowledge of my personal end time, I will assume a normal lifespan. What will I do with the time I have remaining?

That is what I ponder now. As a child, my job was to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually. I had a whole childhood to accomplish that and then many decades to continue growing as an adult.

When I graduated from college with a teaching degree God graciously called me to feed His lambs in the setting of a Lutheran school. That blessing lasted fourteen years and it is a time that is highly treasured in my heart.

Now I have entered those pastures that are closest to Heaven’s boundaries and here I wait until that glory train comes for me. I will not wait in idleness. I hear people talk about the loss of purpose that ruled their time so many years before retirement and I, too, have uncertainty and confusion about my role at this time of my life. I pray that the Lord will call me to feed His sheep – my peers and those older than I who, like me, need teaching in the closing out of our lives in ways that please and praise Him. I trust He will show me how to do that.

And, like the Easter lily in my garden now re-absorbing its energy into its core so that it can bloom next Spring, I am distilling my life energy for the day it must lie dormant, anticipating that day of resurrection so lovingly won for me by Jesus Christ.