Much of what I’ve been reading the past couple of weeks has been about how people envision retirement and whether or not their dreams of retirement have much match to the actual experience of retirement. This is a theme in my thinking that keeps drawing me back.
On the one hand I actually do believe that the vision that we hold about something supports the potential reality of that vision. Not sure if this is making sense or just sounds far too new-agey for most. I remember learning as a child (suffering through endless after-school hours of Hebrew school; a rite of passage many of us have experienced) that Theodore Herzl said “If you will it, it is no dream”. I don’t remember anything else about that class, because those words carried me into thoughts of not only having permission to dream but also having support for really believing in those dreams and acting to fulfill those dreams – willing them and not just dreaming them. Anais Nin taught another lesson: “Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” The great words of wisdom I’ve stumbled upon in the past 59 years are legion.
- “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe” (Anatole France).
- “The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams” (Elizabeth Gilbert)
- “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens” (Carl Jung)
- “Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning” (Gloria Steinem)
And so I continue to dream about retirement and to plan for it not in the way all of the workshops I’ve attended suggest but in a new way; as a dreaming exercise, as discourse, as imaginative exploration, and as a steadily building sense of what a different way of living could be like. Yup, it does have a sense of re-birth; no, that’s not quite the right metaphor, maybe growth spurt works better!
To the reading I’ve been doing. “How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free” is my pending-retirees book-of-the-month club selection (if you have other books that should be added to the list, do let us know). In it, I read about studies that state that although most Canadian workers viewed retirement as a positive step, only a third looked forward to it and adjusted well. This truly blows my mind since I can hardly wait to retire (oh, oh, if my employer is reading this please know that I won’t leave the building until I’m done). In the PBS documentary “My Retirement Dreams”, Marian Marzynski makes the point that “For those who never slowed down from work, the idea of retirement can be frightening; they don’t know what to do after”. Yes, I get that. I guess that’s why I’m now thinking that having a trial-run at retirement living, as I was able to have over the summer, is a pretty good idea after all.
Going a bit beyond the borders of North America – always a good idea when trying to make sense of anything – I read that “Ramasami Natarajan, sixty-nine, of Singapore wrote: ‘I was amused that the reaction to retirement in our part of the world was the same as the reaction to death’.” Okay, that makes sense to me too if you put together my fear about what identity I will have when I retire and the connection between lack of identity, disappearance, and death on a metaphysical level at least.
I’m going to line up, dreams flourishing, behind the words of two strong and admirable women:
- I think it [retirement] beats the heck out of life after death, that’s for sure (Martina Navratilova)
- There is a whole new kind of life ahead, full of experiences just waiting to happen. Some call it retirement, I call it bliss.” (Betty Sullivan)