Well, I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since I started ruminating on what the transition from feminist professional career woman to retiree would be like. I keep trying to think of a word that describes this experience but I’m stymied. I did a little searching on definitions of retired (again) and here’s what I came up with: “Withdrawn from one’s occupation, business, or office; having finished one’s active working life.”
Well, here I am 8 months “in”and I have definitely not withdrawn. Not from my occupation (which I found at my favorite source for understanding words online (www.visualthesaurus.com ) defined as “the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money”) because I’m as devoted to, and involved in, working towards making the world a more caring place as I’ve ever been.
Have I withdrawn from my business? Back to the thesaurus: “a commercial enterprise and the people who constitute it; the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money (again), and … a rightful concern or responsibility.” Ah – well, I have certainly not left my sense of rightful concern or responsibility behind; in fact I now have so much more opportunity to focus on that. I have also clearly not finished my active working life.
I’m not yet finished with anything and – in fact – today my life feels filled with beginnings.
In fact when I give it some thought I realize that I really can’t “finish my active working life” because working is defined as:
(1) actively engaged in paid work – I am getting paid for some of the things that I do … but I must tell you that I think this is a very weak definition because it’s based on a concept of ‘work’ that I might not agree with at all. It’s just the kind of verbal slight-of-hand that makes the ‘work’ of most mothers without value in our society I think.
(2) serving to permit or facilitate further work or activity – that’s just what I’m trying to do; shed some light on what I think we need to change in our education systems if we want to have children growing up prepared to live peacefully and lightly on the earth. In fact I’ve just accepted an invitation to do a 2-hour keynote/workshop at the 2009 Loving Teachers, Living Schools: Sharing our Paths of Peace conference sponsored by the Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace and the McMaster University Centre for Peace Studies (November 12 – 15, 2009 in Hamilton, Ontario).
(3) not permanent, not lasting; I’m hoping that this freedom to follow my spirit is as permanent as anything in life ever can be and I’m quite consciously doing things in new ways so that I can hopefully continue to be blessed by this freedom I have); and, last – but definitely not least …
(4) adequate for practical use; especially sufficient in strength or numbers to accomplish something. Well, I am definitely feeling that I’m accomplishing something. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like but that would be something that’s always been – and like will always be – a part of who I am. I’d also say that overall the way life is unfolding, the things I’m involved with and able to do are more than adequate for me.
Indeed, today – a year after we launched this blog – we’re launching my … get ready for it … waiting … waiting … website. Tada! So that there would be somewhere people could go to find out more about the education-based keynote addresses and workshops, commencement addresses, and conference designing that I do, my sister Molly has helped me develop something I’m really quite proud of – Sylvia Bereskin: Educational Illumination. Do have a look, it’s just a click away. Forward it along to your friends or anyone you know that might be looking for a speaker. Send along some feedback on the site. It’s been a year – a little long for gestation I suppose – but it does feel a lot like a kind of giving birth seeing the website there at the click of a cursor.
This is our first website. What we’ll start working on now is another website that will highlight the women and retirement addresses and workshops I’m hoping to do. I’m working on those right now and hoping that I’ll be presenting at the fall 2009 Crones Counsel gathering – Transformation Spiraling Through Life – Within & Without (October 21 – 25, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia).
I’ve actually started doing some work with the Red Cross; lots of summer hours of distributing bottled water to folks living in parks on extreme heat-alert days and working on the planning of 2009 Canadian Red Cross Youth Leadership Conference in Toronto, October 23 – 25. This has so far been a very, very interesting thing to work on. The co-chairs and most of the people working on the conference are in the ‘youth’ category themselves. I feel rather like the crone at the table. I’m following their lead on ideas and they’re able to rely on me for some direction in how to get the nuts-and-bolts of the process working smoothly. We meet by teleconference since one of the co-chairs is doing some volunteer work in Malawi for the summer. They’ve set up a Wiki for everyone involved in the planning (ah – another tech challenge for me to face). I’m really having fun finding ways to work across generations without enabling any power imbalances.
I’m meditating more. I try to find some time each day (even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes) to be still and meditate. Once a month four of us gather at my friend Laurie’s house in a sort of meditation club … first meditation, then tea and treats. On July 9th I’m starting another meditation ‘course’ which will lead to a full-days meditation. Feels right. I’d also like to start doing Tai Chi again; I’ll look into that soon.
I’m having more relaxed time with family. More time to share with my Mother and with my children and grandchildren. I love them all very much and it’s a treat to feel that I can be with them more … and with less stress joining us at the table because I’m not so rushed all of the time. It’s been an interesting time of getting to know each other differently which I guess isn’t surprising because as I metamorphose (moment by moment) towards who I am there’s bound to be some shared discovery. I feel blessed to be in this family and hope that at least some of the time they feel the same. I’d still like to have a little more face-to-face time with all of them; something else to work towards.
And of course there’s David. This past year has brought lots of new challenges to our life together and to our individual lives. From my contemplation of what retirement would be like before the fact (okay … some might say that was mostly anxiety, but mixed with more than a dram of excitement) to the shifting timeframes of my day (aligned – or not – with his daily schedule) we’ve been working – sometimes even together – to try to map out this new path. Those 30 foot waves when we crossed the Beagle Channel en route to Antarctica continue to roll through our lives; sometimes we’ve got to hold on, sometimes we’ve got to just let ourselves go with the flow, always there’s the journey (sometimes enjoyable) and the anticipation (sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes more filled with dread) of what’s to come.
So … I’m going to try and enjoy every moment of my last month of being 59. Part of that will be continuing to think about this process … living it, and watching it, and writing about it. Part of that will be continuing to enjoy the connections made through the blog. I hope you’re enjoying it too.
Just found my horoscope; here’s what it says: “Who says Leos have fixed ideas? Clearly they don’t know what they are talking about and you will prove it today as you go out of your way to think in new directions. You are about to make a mind-blowing discovery.”
Don’t forget to let me know how you like the website!