Consolidation: “The action or process of combining a number of things into a single more effective or coherent whole.” Oxford Dictionary
Change is challenging for most of us. One of our most significant ones is transitioning from our career into what is still referred to by the inept term “retirement”. Our identity is heavily invested in our work for many of us.
Today’s retirees are younger physically, mentally, and spiritually. As the year 2011 began, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation celebrated their 65th birthday. From that point on, every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65 in the US. A similar proportion of Canadians will join them.
Having come of age in affluent times, boomers have high expectations of life. Consequently many of us don’t feel particularly positive about aging, worrying about finances and quality of life as we become elders. I share these fears. What stands out for me the most is life purpose. How to make my life meaningful in the years I have left. How to hold onto my hopefulness.
The most important thing in aging is to think increasingly seriously about how we want to use the time left, says my wise partner, Don. “I know it sounds like someone with a fatal diagnosis”, he says, “but it applies equally to those of us who do not have that. This applies in both broader strokes and to this very day, right now.”
Transitioning with grace is about connecting with what matters to us on a deep level. The process won’t necessarily be seamless, it may take years. There will be many bumps on the road. Because change does not happen in a straight line.
I’m an example of one’s identity being tied up in career. My work as a counsellor in a large Vancouver agency, followed by a return to the Sunshine Coast to a small counselling and coaching practice, along with authoring two books, gave me much purpose.
During that time there were three trips to India travelling and volunteering and one to Southeast Asia, combined with overseeing my mother’s care and visiting with her. Life was rich and I was engaged.
In late 2013 we became part of a group sponsoring a Tibetan family in our community through Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project, that is bringing 1000 Tibetan refugees to Canada from remote northeast India.
Last year I began to wind down my practice and to process the disappointment over it not growing the way I had anticipated. Added to that was the difficulty of marketing self-published books. Then, this January, we went off to India, on the odd trip I documented in two previous blogs, clearly part of our process.
I needed to close the door on what might have been before another door could open. As Alexander Graham Bell so aptly put it: “When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
It has taken me fifteen months of processing to reach the point of moving on. It’s been a time of wondering, of reviewing, of literally wandering, sometimes in a what felt like a vacuum.
When we returned to Canada in May from the India/Ireland trip, the weather was warm, and I spent months sitting on the back deck, enjoying my garden. My friend Alma, the psychic who did the amazing channelling for An Indian Sojourn, told me quite firmly, through her guides, that I needed an overhaul, and should do nothing for several months. Then it would be time to “honour my gifts” and begin to help others again.
This time of endings and of processing what had been, the unusual trip we took, followed by months of apparently “doing nothing” has been a period of consolidation for me, and I am now ready to slowly move into new projects. This new chapter incorporates what I’ve loved and enjoyed in the past, what has fed me, into a new way of being in the world.
For me those things are meditation, prayer, walking in nature, yoga, practicing energy work, volunteering, writing and renewing my commitment to music.
Internallized ageism is a problem for me at times, and I’m sure for many of us. So I do my best to remain open to new opportunities, listening to my internal wisdom when it pushes me to try some new challenge, like singing in the Handel’s Messiah chorus this Christmas.
Everyone’s path is different. But I think most of us would agree that it’s very important to do what we really enjoy, at our own tempo, and to spend our time with people we enjoy and care about.
As my dear friend Rasheda, in her late seventies said to me recently, “Do everything you want to do now, because later you’ll want to but won’t be able to.”