It's been two years since semi-retirement, two years that have been semi-good. I would love to be entirely retired but I also like being semi-active with the newspaper. The week begins working and ends not working. In between, I watch the grandsons and I live. It's a hybrid, a non-work in progress.
For those headed toward retirement — semi- or otherwise — and wonder what it's like, here's some of what I've learned:
Slow down … but don't stop. There's such a lot of living to do.
Keep it simple.
Read, write, think, walk, love. That can fill a day.
Get together with friends on a regular basis for stimulating conversation over good food and drink or long walks.
Cultivate friendships with stimulating people.
Don't commit suicide by lifestyle.
Exercise the mind as well as the body.
Keep mind and heart as open as possible.
Oxygenate and hydrate — deep breaths/sighs and plenty of water.
Get enough sleep; naps are allowed.
Focus more on what you have than what you're losing or what you've lost.
Consume and achieve less.
Appreciate and wonder more.
Keep the juices flowing. The well isn't dry, just deeper.
As someone said recently, you're as young as your spine. Stiffen up, but stay flexible. It's an art that requires practice.
Pray for enough time to finish whatever it is you were meant to do.
Pray that if your time is cut short, someone else will do it instead.
Manage time but more gently.
Discipline comes less from outside now, more from inside.
Doing nothing is doing something — if it's mindful.
Doing something is doing nothing — if it's mindless.
Take your time, but don't waste time.
Prepare to cry more. Beauty is the culprit, where sadness and joy converge. It hits you between the eyes.
Prepare for surprises from your psyche, which have apparently been waiting till now to emerge. Premonitions, for instance. As the body diminishes, we discover there's more to us than we thought.
Understand that there is no emptiness between I and You, only presence.
Accept the inevitable. The stress you reduce by doing so may delay the inevitable.
Life could end tomorrow. Or you could live another 30 years. The obituaries I edit every week document plenty of each. Prepare for both.
Read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.
Whether the inevitable arrives sooner or later, remember how lucky you were to have a life at all and to have lived this long.
Be grateful for good memories. Forgive yourself — and anyone else — for bad ones.
Savor where you are — right here, right now.
Concentrate — on stairs, crossing streets, uneven ground — it raises our odds, and raising our odds is all we can do.
Stay on the journey, but not necessarily on the path.
Shed your slaveries.
Leave the prison door ajar.
Remember nature's fertile lesson: Decay enriches life, which springs from it.
Life isn't ending. It goes on without us. That's how it was designed.
My bucket list is lengthy but not urgent. Climbing Mt. Everest is not on it. Skydiving is definitely not on it. Seeing Earth from space is still number one, but I don't expect to check that off.
I would like to visit the Parthenon though.
In the meantime, my computer has been taking me on a world tour each day, thanks to Bing, whose photos are so much better than Google's, a name whose origin I wonder about. My theory is it derives from "Go ogle." Just a coincidence? Maybe, but it's a good reminder: Keep ogling. There is so much of life left to ogle.
I'm not so much scared of death as dying suddenly. I'm acutely aware that I don't want to die right now, though some say suddenly is the way to go. Not for me. I want time to say goodbye.
For a while I wanted to plan my funeral service in advance, but not anymore. I believe you get the kind of memorial you deserve, based on the impact you had on other people's lives. That's fair. Karmic. If people don't rise to your occasion, there's probably a reason.
But I'm requesting two pieces of music — "O Love" by Elaine Hagenberg, which begins, "O Love, O Love, that will not let me go," because that's how true love feels, and "When I'm Gone" by Phil Ochs, which includes the lines:
I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour out a lyric line when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here.
Another good reminder, though it will be too late for me at that point.
If there is an afterlife, I hope it is a rapturous reunion of loving souls. So many of them I want to meet again, not to mention the many I hope to greet who follow me hereafter.
We'll know then if Love would not let us go.
If nothing comes after, well, life is still worth living.
And worth living well.
Answer Book 2019
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