I won’t bore you with reflections on the poignant transition from summer to fall. And the bracing briskness of fresh-start or new-beginnings inspiration that back to school time brings. Instead, I will use a broader lens, to consider the ‘season’ that the important people in my life are experiencing.
Are they coping or flourishing? Just getting by or thriving? What about you – where do you fall on the spectrum?
My parents have been retired for many years; in fact, my mother was my age when she retired from her library job. She went to live my sister’s family – during the school year, to care for her grandson while his parents worked. My dad retired and joined her with the arrival of a second grandson.
They truly enjoyed those few years of onsite grand parenting. When that ended, my folks turned their energies to their home and garden, family, friends and church. A decade later, they began to slow down and, a year ago, they sold their home of 45 years and moved into a condo. My parents are now my neighbours, and we are enjoying the benefits of proximity.
Both of my parents appreciate the slower more relaxed pace. My father enjoys watching the news, keeping up with current events. He knows more about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and the coming election than many Americans. My mother contents herself with domestic chores and relationships with family and friends.
A dear friend of mine retired at 60. Still vibrant and active, she has traveled, is making some upgrades to her home and is spending some quality time with friends and family. She leads our small group and, like the teacher she is, does an excellent job of guiding us through Bible study and encouraging our growth as followers of Jesus. Whatever she undertakes she does well, but lately, she has begun to feel restless.
Empty nest syndrome is imminent as her only child prepares to go away to further her education. At the moment, she is prayerfully trying to discern what God might have for her to tackle next.
Retirement Age, Still Working
Two close friends fall into this category – one is younger and technically still has 2 years to go before she can legally retire; the other needs and wants to continue working.
My younger friend would love to retire, to spend more time with her first grandchild, the uber-adorable Jakey, but it’s not feasible. She is very grateful to still have a job with the large firm that has employed her for 20+ years. She looks and behaves at least 10 years younger, and is embracing this season of life. She mentors younger Christians, is involved in ministry and is richly connected into the lives of extended family and close friends.
My other friend had her own business for years; when the economy dipped in 2008, business fizzled out. She needed to work and developed a patchwork career of freelancing and part-time sales jobs. A few weeks ago, she landed a full-time job in her own neighbourhood. She loves it but is feeling stressed with the challenge of learning the inventory and the computerized system of this thriving local business. It’s hard to learn new things at my age, she confessed. But, she has always been a trooper and I know she will flourish.
Inching Toward Retirement
I was going to call this segment “Working Full-time, Inching Toward Retirement” but in fact I have a couple of friends my age who don’t work outside the home, so I shortened it. We in this group are in our mid to late 50s (legal retirement age here is 65).
One friend is a homemaker, coaching her adult children through the final years of their education and caring for a recently-retired spouse. She has health challenges of her own and life is a struggle for her sometimes. But she loves the Lord and finds solace and strength in that relationship.
Another friend has been retired for some years, though she does financial work on a contract basis. She is on a charitable board and is active in that community group. She surrounds herself with a circle of close friends, who have helped her through serious illness, family death, elder care, and many other challenges.
A third friend, a bit younger than I, is working in the public school system supporting children with special needs. She’s a petite energetic woman with a huge heart just brimming with love. She loves her own (adult) children and nurtures those connections. She loves the kids in her care and is an amazing helper and advocate. And she always makes time for family and friends in her full rich life. She is one of my heroes.
Too many people I know fall into this category, and each of them has a unique story. One feature they share is a desire to live life well – to work and contribute, to enjoy their relationships and their homes, and embrace all that life has to offer.
Students and Children
My eldest nephew is finishing college and has good job prospects. My younger nephew is entering the military – something he has wanted to do since he was a boy. My three little niece-cousins are doing well in elementary school, though the eldest will be starting high school next year. My 2+ year old nephew-cousin has got it made – doting parents, adoring family and friends, a wonderful life on the temperate West coast.
I fall into the Inching Toward Retirement group. While I tend to be an obsessive brooder, I am recommitting myself to learning to focus on living – and enjoying – the gift of now. The present. How many years of time have I wasted rehashing the past or anxiously fretting about the future? I shudder to think.
But I can’t change that. What I can do is change my thinking, my priorities, my focus, right now. Today. So that my tomorrows will follow a different course from the yesterdays that got me here.
One day at a time.
Shalom and Happy Autumn, dear friends.