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Life in Retirement: It’s a wonderful life


My mom used to admonish me for ‘wishing my life away’, even when I was just a young girl. I was often looking for something else to be happening even though I was surrounded by pleasant people and things to do. I waited impatiently for special events and made lists of things to do and things not to do and things I might consider doing whenever another special event were to come along. I was always plotting next steps and strategizing how quickly I could get to them.

I’m not exactly sure why I felt so restless, because I have also been happy with whatever I’ve been doing at any given time. But I do still struggle with those distracting thoughts from time to time, although yoga – and age – are helping me hone my skills at living in the moment. The reality is that I have been reminded throughout my life, by various people, that I simply don’t do that naturally.

One reminder came when I was 19 and on my backpacking trip. I was standing on a quiet country road in Greece, stopped in my tracks to behold what is still the most incredible sight I have witnessed. My friend and I had walked along what I thought was a deserted road near the town of Kalabaka, enroute to a series of monasteries that were reputed to be ‘must see’ in backpacking circles. We had no idea how breathtaking these structures would be, as they sat miraculously at the top of what seemed like skyscraper-high pinnacles.

We were astonished by what we were seeing and stood silently for several moments. Finally I muttered, “I’m going to come back here one day.” And a man, who I hadn’t noticed standing near us, stated, “But you are right here, right now.” Enough said. I sort of held my breath and tried to think of what it was I wanted to return to, so I could try and capture that essence right then. In that moment. Because those moments of deep meaning don’t come around again.

Another reminder came from a writer-in-residence who I was helping to host in our community many years ago. I had developed lists upon lists before her arrival, attempting to stay one step ahead of what may be needed next to make the weekend event successful. She quickly came to call me “Sprint” and asked why I was always darting around after one elusive task or another. Another time a very kind man, who I shared some time with after my marriage ended, told me he was going to ask me out long before he did. “But you always seemed to be in a hurry to get to something more important.”

Hmmm, bad habit to try and break. Add to it the decades of reporting and corporate work that had deadlines to meet and actual lists to adhere to. Even John Lennon shared a reminder with all of us: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Still, I was a ticking clock with thoughts of ‘next, next and next’ on permanent repeat. Someone taught me to recognize those thoughts and interrupt them by making myself stand still for 20 seconds. That’s all there was to it, so it sounds easy. For me it can get quite excruciating after about second #4.

But the downside to not re-structuring this pattern is that I end up missing so much, of course. Not just the action of the moment, but the feeling of the moment. The joy, the beauty, the drama, the shared experience or simply the ambience of that single moment in time. It’s a life lived from moment to moment, and it’s a wonderful life. Don’t miss it!

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