Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End? by Mary Oliver
is simply beautiful.
Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking outward, to the mountains so solidly there in a white-capped ring, or was he looking to the center of everything:
the seed, the egg, the idea that was also there, beautiful as a thumb curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring, as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?
Retired now? Life derailed due to coronavirus? Have a LOT of time on your hands?
Did you make a list of items you want to do as a way to ‘fill your time’ and accomplish some stuff you’ve been meaning to complete?
Tell me about your list. Is it one or two items or will it fill a book? In fact, there are books that have lists of bucket items. Hmm, probably not a good thing to fill someone else’s list though. That’s like living someone else’s life for them.
Here’s some of mine in case you need some push from behind …
Volunteer ___ (food bank, Rotary, library, Peace Corp, mentoring students)
Contact ______ (high school friends, childhood buddies, pen pals, congress representative)
Paint _________ (canvas, nails, doors, house, garage, your wagon)
Research ______(family lore, history of sugarbeets, finances, school board)
Organize __ (a book group, game nights, hiking events, trips abroad)
So, does this list kick something into gear for you? Got some things you need to write down then check off? What exactly is on your list, hmm? Have you already moved forward on some items. Feel better?
If you’re married then you have a partner to share some of your activities with, however that’s not always the case. Your list and your spouses could be vastly different or perhaps one of you might want to travel and the other might choose to never leave the garden.
The secret is to find some things that only you love to do and get moving on them. You might learn that golfing isn’t that high on your list after you take a few lessons. Or that you want to learn and teach yoga.
Climb into your sandbox and to explore and play. Find out what you like to do and move in that direction. Maybe you’ll never want to come out.
Or maybe you’ll decide you want to climb into the round sandbox filled with electronics, computers and technology and come out with the knowledge that you really want to create recipes and make new food items.
If you don’t have a partner to play with, that works fine too. In fact, you might have more freedom to try things out, change your mind and start all over again. You’ve got 30 years on your plate. The important thing to remember is there are so many others who want to meet you and do what you’re doing.
Be happy, have fun — And you will always have friends!
Ok, so you crossed off the days on the calendar, had the party, celebrated and NOW you are retired. Its time to sleep in and enjoy checking items off your bucket list.
You’ve cleaned closets, garages and drawers.
You’ve packed your bags and sailed the seas, visited beaches and climbed mountains.
You’ve weeded and planted, hoed and harvested.
You’ve sliced, hooked and sandbagged.
You’ve visited family, reconnected with friends and made new acquaintances.
You’ve casted, caught and released.
You’ve cruised, snoozed and boozed.
Now you’ve got 25+ years to go!
Having a strategy on how to spend your next 25 years is pretty important and often overlooked. Yes, you love to golf but to do so everyday for the rest of your life? Perhaps? Or maybe not too realistic.
Doing the same thing day after day, not only becomes more like a job (with no pay or benefits) but it’s like taking every vacation back to visit the folks in Syracuse. Year after year. A thousand places to visit and year after year … back home to Syracuse. It will get old really fast.
But, as a newly retired person you have a blank slate. Unless you start to add things to your canvas, others will do it for you. Look around right now and figure out who you want to spend your time with, what organizations you want to get involved with and investigate places where you want to visit.
As you create this list, as you research your topics, as you reach out and learn more – explain to others what you are doing and why. This is your first step in making new friends. The information you are seeking already exists … you just need to ask the question.
Creating your very own ‘Fun Stuff’ list will benefit you even on down days (yes, sorry to say, you will have down days) and keep you active, interesting and engaging. Finding the things that make you feel grounded will vary from person to person but they are the essence of our being. I know I’m sounding overly dramatic but just take a minute and think about it.
ACTION ITEM: Make a list of the things that make you smile. The list below is unique to me. What will be on your list? (My list spell out RETIRE!)
Read Exercise Travel Invest in yourself! Routine Education
Of course I’d list this one first – it’s my GO-TO hobby. I love visiting book stores, libraries, attending speaker series, and author presentations. I get a new look at the world through books. I have my own set of favorite authors and whether I read a book, listen on a cd or download to my smart phone, the act of ingesting someone’s words is a true gift.
One huge aspect of reading for me is visiting libraries. Libraries are unique and have their own personality. Some libraries are nondescript, bland, boring and easily forgotten. Other libraries are landmark buildings with glass ceilings and stand tall and proud. I just read one great blog post from The Library Lady Travels about a series of churches in Canada that were converted into libraries as a way to save the historical building and house books. I really want to visit those buildings! For all the libraries in between, they have their own sweet character that usually invites me to return.
Without exercise and a healthy body there really is no happy retirement, right? Without exercise there will be no walking, hiking, tennis, or golfing. A regular exercise routine is something to be scheduled and on the calendar. This routine can offer so much besides a happy body.
Reports and studies show that walking is the perfect exercise. I love walking but not running. I stopped running the day I realized I could walk faster than my ‘run.’ The secret to an exercise routine is that you do it, love it and embrace it. I was never going to embrace running but walking … oh yeah!
What is it that you love to do? When you are creating your list, remember to factor in strength training. As we age, our muscles lose mass. In other words, they are slowly dying. They need to be challenged, engaged and tested. Strength training is not specific to a gym either. You can get stronger without lifting weights.
It might take you a whole 5 minutes searching to find youtube.com videos of strength training without equipment routines. Once you find a few, bookmark them and try them all. Lunges, squats, push-ups, planks and resistance bands will cause you to sweat, stretch beyond your limits and be open for new opportunities. Pick bits and pieces from routines and create your own plan. Once you figure out what exercise you love, put it on your calendar!
Do not believe the studies that tell you “Only 20 minutes of walking a day is needed.” Phooey. Move it or lose it is my motto!
I believe that travel is a huge factor in my retirement happiness. The freedom to make plans that are months away or spur-of-the-moment make a big difference in my mental well-being. Before, I used to dream about building up vacation days so I could get out of town. I had to pass on those dream flights that popped at Wednesday at 2 am and would promise to whisk you to an amazing destination if you were packed and ready to board within 24 hours. Those flights are what blockbuster movies are all about.
So, here I am with time and a vehicle and all it will take is for me to schedule something on my calendar as a way to make it happen. Take a trip to Sedona on Tuesday. OK. Visit hot springs next month. Take a Napa Valley Wine Tour in September? Booked and on the calendar.
Invest in yourself!
This tip relates back to all the things you said you wanted to do. Learn to dance, play guitar, weave, sing, golf, cook, or whatever you promised you would do when you retire. Perhaps you are wanting to write a book, start a podcast, climb a mountain, learn a language or build a house. Investing in yourself includes giving away your time too. Finding a cause that resonates with your core values will be the way to start. Want to work with children, build houses, visit the sick, distribute food, hoe gardens, collect trash? There are organizations waiting for you to call. Most often, in order to invest in yourself it takes a bit of planning.
ACTION ITEM: Take a look at your bucket list and circle three things that you have to work hard to achieve. Want to learn to speak Spanish? Check out local community colleges or recreation centers for classes. Or go online and search for “free language app” or perhaps visit your local library.
What are those things that you dreamed about prior to retirement? Pick the top three and create a list of the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Then take one step.
Then tomorrow take another. Simple, easy and most important, you’ve put your dreams in motion. Congratulations!
OK, readers, this one is HUGE! I know, I know. For the past 30 years you have been on a schedule and now it’s time to go rogue. Or, maybe not.
Having a routine is powerful in so many ways. A set wake-up time or a scheduled daily exercise program is needed to keep moving forward. Without some sort of routine, days slip by and you’ll often ask yourself “what day is it?” At first it’s funny, then it is just frustrating. Those mindless days turn into years then into decades. Own your life again. Start now.
A routine holds you accountable to yourself. Knowing you are expected to be at the gym at 7 am gets you up and out the door. Perhaps 7am is your journaling time? Then put something on the calendar and stick with it. Not only will you find other like- minded individuals who show up when you do, you might find out you have lots in common.
Once you figure out what it is you want to learn, get online and find out more. Want to spend time learning college level material? Go to iTunes University. You will be amazed what is offered. Or go to your internet browser and search for Open Educational Resources (OER). These are free and open sources materials with a focus on getting college level material into the hands of students without the high price tag. Another place to continue online learning is via Youtube University, Coursera and TED talks, Tedx and TEDEd
Some communities offer classes through Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. This foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults and operates on 124 campuses across the nation.
Download a podcast app and listen to almost any topic that interests you. (Go back to your bucket list for inspiration.) Find the search icon and type in your subject. You will be amazed at the variety and selection of speakers you can subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.
This is the time in your life to really stretch your imagination and do something amazing. Want to learn astronomy? Astrology? Astrophysics? Then check online courses, podcasts, books, community colleges, local universities and start asking HOW to make it happen. Just remember to get it on your calendar.
And, just for the record – I want you to kick back and be lazy. I think you earned it and nobody should take that away from you. Let the sun shine on your face, smell the flowers, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy that ice cold beverage. And then … make a plan. (smile)
I took a trip back in time and something really wonderful happened… autumn colors!
I went back ‘home’ to upstate NY and to visit friends in the Adirondacks and I happened to be there when the colors were at PEAK. Can you say LOTTERY WINNER? Because that was how I felt. Around every bend were gifts – bouquets of red maples, brown oaks, orange elms, and gold birch leaves danced to their own lovely tune. It was temporary. Autumn hugged me like an old friend and the embrace reminded me of all I had missed.
My awe continued as the view got even better – from the seat of a kayak. The reflection of the colors from the water made my heart skip and smile. Somehow, I happened onto the colors. They were waiting for me to arrive, I just know it. Everything synced up – just for me.
Going back … home is all about stories. Taking a drive to a long-ago camp (small cabin in the woods) my sisters reminisced about the good times they spent there. When I chimed in the conversation it was to say how much I didn’t like the place. I didn’t like the location, the damp and cold building with no running water and an outhouse. Nothing was nearby – except more woods, trees and little sunshine. And most of all, I didn’t like mice and the camp was filled with them. I was fifteen years old and had better places to be. The camp improved over the years and as running water, electricity and a toilet were added, I was more inclined to go but I was also older and moving on with my life. The camp was a touchstone for them and for me it was just a place in time… long ago.
For as much as I loved being on vacation and going back in time, eating haddock fish sandwiches, attending reunions and weddings, visiting family, picking apples, buying sausage pizza and munching on the most delicious Italian bread everywhere – I also looked forward to returning home to my routine. To freshly-made kale smoothies, exercise, mountain views, friends, family and healthy eating.
For as much as I love to travel, I mostly enjoy returning home.
My friend Sara and I took a walk last week to get caught up in person. No texts, no phone calls just a walk and talk. Like we used to do. She is almost ready to retire. In fact, she can retire right now but she hesitates because if she does, she will be stuck at home with her husband.
The man she chose to marry is not very nice. When she does something forgetful, he pounces on that and just rants and raves about what a loser she is. During our walk, she told me that in the past month she mindlessly clicked something on her computer and it was compromised. She took it to a computer tech and had to get it wiped and cleaned. She felt so stupid. Her husband won’t let her forget that she screwed up again. He demeans her and takes away any confidence she has in herself.
Sara is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Colorado. She and I have been though births, deaths, divorces and remarriages. When she told me that Eddie proposed and she planned to marry him, I asked her why?
I realized during our walk that she didn’t intend to take any action, she just needed to talk through what was going on, to list offences, to explain retirement possibilities and to unload. Once I understood my role, I was able to shake my head when needed, offer condolences and some levity here and there.
I know of others like her who would retire tomorrow if they could change their home life. One amazing friend of mine worked to the age of 68 so that she could avoid being home with her unemployed husband. When she finally did retire, it was because she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Ok, this is the part where I let my naiveté show. Why not stand up and say no? No more abuse? No more put downs? No more hostility? These women and many others are actually the breadwinners and yet, they allow themselves to be pushed around at home – whereas in the workplace they are given the respect due the position.
Do I have to walk in Sara’s shoes and take the verbal abuse in order to speak honestly to her? And if I were in her shoes, would I have the strength, determination and financial means to walk away? And could I walk away … from yet another marriage?
My marriage had none of the negativity and toxic environment that she is exposed to on a daily basis. In the past, I would speak freely about what she could do, and suggest steps and actions she could to help her move away, or forward depending on what she needed. I send her links to podcasts, youtube video suggestions and books that would help with self esteem, financial information and know-how.
So, this time when she shared her world with me, I understood that she only needed to vent. She wasn’t ready to act and maybe she would never be ready. I decided to be a good listener and give her the safe place to speak freely.
Is that all she needs?
My heart is heavy because I am so happy in retirement. I am hiking, taking drives to see the beautiful autumn colors, taking daily walks, visiting libraries, reading, making friends, traveling and enjoying my space.
What are your thoughts about this? Know people like Sara? Any words of wisdom for her or me?
Last week I sent the article link titled The Tail End to my siblings. I read this article years ago and wanted to revisit it. Once I read it, I wanted my long-distance siblings to read it and absorb the message as well.
The ‘tail end’ is used often enough to explain the end of something; a concert, a speech, a football game, a movie. I’ve heard it and used it many times. However, I never applied it to me.
The tail end of my life? I never really put me and my lifespan into the equation. What began as an novel idea has turned into an “in your face” fact. Four years has passed since Tim Urban wrote and published this in 2015 and since then many things have happened in my world. I am retired, I have a 2-year old granddaughter, my grandson is ten years old, my brother has died and so many other happy and sad life events have occurred. I am in the third of my life and more aware of my dear wonderful friend called ‘Time.’
I read the article and then reached for the phone to make a call to my friend, I texted my sister and sent a card to my aunt. I checked the airlines to see when I can visit my son and his family. I’ve jotted down a note to contact Sharon to set up a monthly date to connect. She and I have been friends since 1979 and we live 35 miles from each other. I last saw her in June. If I’m lucky I see her twice yearly and that’s not good enough. We don’t have the excuse of huge time commitments, airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc because we live down the highway from each other. What it takes is to put a date on the calendar and honor it. I have other friends who need to be on my calendar more often as well. I can make that happen.
I am happy to say my siblings find time to connect with me via video chat. We are able to have 5 of us chatting at the same time. It’s like being at the dinner table again. The topic is more about our grandchildren and their antics rather than us and our issues.
When our brother died two years ago, he found a way to bring us together even tighter than we were before. Hearing a song that he loved, a phrase he used to say, attending his daughter’s wedding and so many other memories keep us touching base. He is the fourth sibling that I’ve lost but he was the most special in so many ways. We were two years apart in age and our children were best friends growing up. His death took so much from us and in a way, left fertile ground for us to grow closer.
Being able to live in the same place as the people I love is a thing of beauty (there I am again, checking real estate options near my granddaughter…) and means I will get to spend much more time in the presence of those I love. However, living in the same area as my family and friends means nothing if I don’t reach out and connect with them. Sometimes it takes work to stay in touch but it’s so worth it.
I keep asking myself, what really matters?
You may have figured out that family means a lot to me. The ages 0-5 are the ones I adore the most. Children in this age range are innocent, inventive, wild and free at heart. Then they go to school and learn how to draw ‘in the lines’ and learn to spell correctly and become more regimented. But prior to attending school, they are genuine.
Friends matter too. And yet, I have to make sure I make those calls and stay in touch. It’s so easy to let time slip away without making the effort.
Eliminate the crap. Life is too short, time is elusive and we can only do so much. Right?
Spending time with people who I do not love, doing something that doesn’t bring me happiness and knowing that time is finite is the kick I need to focus on what I love above all else.
For me, in my tail end of life I plan to put another visit on my calendar to see my granddaughter. I can interact more readily with my grandson each day too.
My siblings will continue to see me on video as we connect in a way that was never possible a decade ago.
My local friends will benefit the most as I focus on setting up one-on-one time with them. I know they are busy and have families and all that jazz but they need me too. So, it’s time to pull out my calendar and make some calls.
I read this poem in a book yesterday and it made me pause and reread it. After several readings I decided to post it and share it here. What is so compelling about this poem?
Looking back, I can remember the gentle silences and the awareness that all was well. The feeling that life was good and feeling sorry for anyone who was not us. Such sweet words.
A Third Body
A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know, someone we know of, whom we have never seen. –Robert Bly