Can’t seem to make a decision about retirement.
Just when I think I have finally reached a conclusion….I push the date farther and farther out into the future.
‘What if we haven’t saved enough money and live to be a hundred?’
Okay, that’s mostly wishful thinking.
‘What if we stop working and the stock market crashes along with our retirement plans?’
Well that one is actually a little more realistic.
Then there’s the whole career thing.
I’ve been a psychotherapist for just shy of thirty-five years. In that time, clients have shared their euphoric joys and accomplishments….and have presented with trauma, struggles and agonizing sorrows, approached courageously with gallant determination.
The challenge was to become a trusted confidante in order to coach, counsel and guide what were often heroic changes by brave individuals and couples who dared to dive deep into their souls, hoping to create the life they deserved. The work has been humbling and rewarding. I sat often in awe of their perseverance, their honesty and willingness to be raggedy, opting to attempt new behaviors that seemed contrary to how they had been navigating the world for decades.
I observed deep, dark wounds between couples heal before my eyes. Women who had lived a life of subservience and domestic abuse, found their voices. Men who allowed for no other emotion but anger, wept in my office.
I often learned from clients. My skills improved because they….taught me.
There have certainly been moments when my confidence was shaky. I could get lost in the complexity of a client’s diagnosis and would seek insight from others whose skills I admired. Sometimes I made mistakes. But I always brought my full self to my work.
So, who will I be when I cease being a therapist? How will it feel when I close that door?
So many identities are shed as we move into this final phase of life.
I am no longer a runner, a person with 20/20 vision, a size 12, a dark-haired woman, a child bearer, a “Miss” (yes….now I’m a “Ma’m”). I have ceased to be a child/girl/adolescent/young woman/young adult……or someone’s daughter.
I’m a senior. Yikes!!!
I am on Medicare. I collect Social Security. I have wrinkles where once my face was smooth. Stretch marks where my skin was taut. A knee that needs replacing. Eyes that can barely see without contact lenses or glasses. I notice I can’t hear as well in crowded rooms. I no longer turn the heads of men…….unless their hair is silver.
And yet….most days, almost every day, I feel this is the absolute best time of my life.
I am, to my delight and surprise, beginning to feel genuinely at home in my own skin. There are still those moments when the “work” I thought was behind me ambushes my otherwise tranquil mind. A humble reminder no true level of self-actualization or perfection exists….for anyone.
My partner and I are on the same ‘senior’ page. Just when we land on what we think is stability, the earth under our feet shifts, our desires change. Our needs and wants are more in a state of flux than ever.
We designed and built a dream retirement home on an island in Maine almost twenty years ago…. with an outside hot tub, an electric sauna, multiple decks with water views, prolific gardens….three levels with three flights of stairs….and a fifteen mile round-trip to downtown Brunswick. It was to be our retirement sanctuary, except as we crept toward sixty…. the stairs, the gardens, the upkeep, the distance from Brunswick let alone Portland, moved us toward condo living.
We downsized close to forty-five years of memories….and useless stuff that had been dragged through several previous moves. Our ‘mansion’ is now a 1,200 sf loft. We have an elevator in the building and are within walking distance of everything we need. Portland is our playground! We are positioned to ‘age in place’….apparently a new phrase that suggests we could actually live here until we die….with an elevator, all living space on one floor and walking distance to our hair stylist, financial planner, therapists, grocery stores, multiple coffee places…. and the best pie in Portland. A few blocks from the ferry terminal, we can take a boat to an island and escape the city whenever we please.
All we need to do….is make a final decision.
Hmmmm….perhaps it’s time……