For the past two days I’ve been at a pre-retirement seminar put on by the company I work for. I learned a lot over the past couple of days, not the least of which is how retirement preparation goes beyond the financial considerations that many people put the most time and attention toward. One needs to take time to consider what life post-career will look like. Gerry and I talk about our retirement plans often; we wouldn’t be like the couple who was sitting behind me yesterday who, when filling out a worksheet about a fantasy retirement day, discovered that the husband was in Arizona and the wife was in Washington State!
A few months ago I asked my writing group to imagine themselves either ten years in the past or ten years in the future and write a vignette from that perspective. (You can read the entire prompt here. I’d enjoy reading what you might write in response to this prompt too!)
So, in honor of the past few days dreaming about retirement I decided to share the piece I wrote about my own life ten years from now. It’s a lengthy piece so I’ll be posting it in three parts. Here is the first installment.
I rise from my bed early when the sparrows first begin their morning serenade.
“Wake up! Wake up! It is a new day with new adventures.”
It is a blessing to wake naturally with the sound of nature welcoming me into a new day and with that whole new day in front of me. I rise, quietly and slowly, leaving Gerry to sleep. His rhythmic breathing and the warmth and coziness of my bed calls and tempts me to cuddle up next to him for a few more minutes, and on some days I do just that. In the winter when I hear the wind blowing and imagine how bitter the cold is outside I am more apt to curl up next to my husband and go back to sleep for an hour, but on this day I have things to do so I make the first choice of my day and I rise.
On the days I choose to heed the call of the sparrows I pad down the hall to my office — my sanctuary — and gently close the door so as not to disturb my still-sleeping husband. I light a lilac-scented candle, roll out my aqua-colored yoga mat, and place two similarly colored yoga blocks on the floor on either side of the mat. I switch on my iPod, turning the dial to my morning yoga playlist, and plug it in to the external speakers.
Then I breathe. On the inhalation I take in gratitude and joy; on the exhalation I let go of stress and tension. These days my inhalations are much deeper as my life is one filled with thankfulness and delight in simple moments; my exhalations are not as deliberate as they once were when anxiety and pressure were part of most days. One, two, three, inhalations and exhalations, then I drop to my knees and begin my routine.
Sometimes the practiced and familiar poses transport my mind back to when I first began this morning yoga and meditation routine. I was still working at my corporate job, desperately wishing I could leave and focus on what I was increasingly coming to realize what the life I was meant to be living. At the time, I was still three years away from being retirement-eligible and had committed to myself and my husband I would stick with it until then. Short term pain, long term gain, I told myself.
It wasn’t that the work was painful, in fact some days I enjoyed it immensely and found it fulfilling and gratifying. Days like when a particularly challenging project wrapped up successfully and when I could see clearly how my skills, talents, and strengths had contributed to that success. On those days I sometimes speculated I might even choose to stay on past the magical retirement-eligible date.
Then there were other days when I found myself frustrated, stressed or just plain bored. Sometimes I took a walk at lunch time and fought against the urge to keep walking — to go AWOL for the rest of the day. I longed to be at home doing those things that gave me pleasure: quilting, reading, writing, cooking, and gardening; and I missed my children and grandchildren so much I was sorely tempted to throw in the towel at work and move back to Canada.
“I want to go home,” I would whine to Gerry at the end of days like this.
I began a morning yoga routine to help me to cope with stress and deal with the chronic pain in my neck and shoulders. Every morning: Cat Cow, Child’s Pose, repeat, breathe. Downward Facing Dog, Chair Pose, Mountain Pose, breathe. Warrier Pose, Mountain Pose, repeat, breathe. I began a meditation practice and worked at being intentionally mindful in moments outside of my morning routine: while washing the dishes, deadheading my petunias, or walking the dogs.
And it worked; it got me through the next three years.
By the way, I hope you’ll join me on Sunday as I talk with Jennifer Lauck and John Sobraske about adoption healing. And if you’re not able to make the call at 11am PST don’t worry, it is being recorded so you’ll be able to listen to it at your convenience.