Here it is October 1st. In one month I will have been retired for a whole year. Holy crow!!! Soon it will be time for me to reflect on this first year “beyond work” … but not quite yet. What’s very exciting is that by the time I enter year two of retirement I will have not one website (www.sylviabereskin.com), but two. Next week we’re going to be launching a For The First Time website that will focus on women and retirement. For only the second time in the past 18 months that means I’ll be missing a posting; we’ll be “in process” next Monday so my next posting will be next Thursday. You’ll be automatically directed to the new site when you check the blog. Here’s hoping it will all go smoothly!
Meanwhile, as sad as it makes me, I think I might just be finished kayaking for another season. There’s nothing that I do in the fall/winter months that gives me the same sense of peace and the same opportunity to think deeply as paddling along a river. Often when I’m paddling I meditate. That means that I’m trying to stay aware of just the very moment that I’m in; the feeling of the air, the sound of the paddles in the water, the motion of my arms moving back and forth, up and down. Nonetheless, other thoughts do pop into my mind (the point in the approach to meditation that I use is not to empty my mind but just to acknowledge the kinds of thoughts that pop up and then go back to the moment). So what slides into my awareness as my kayak slides along the surface of the river?
Ah – a brief aside. I just saw a very funny play called Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak. Robyn Israel stars in (and also wrote) this one-woman show that comedically presents stereotypes, cultural clashes and racism. Imagine … here’s this young woman (just a little more than half my age I’m guessing) struggling with the same thing as I am; growing into being your own person.
Okay, back to the moment. Mostly it’s fear that comes to visit. Am I really capable of doing the things I’m setting out to do? Will there be more education keynotes and workshops? Will there be women and retirement workshops? Maybe a book? Will I always be a little bit lonely now? What if … or … or …? And this is where the mindfulness kicks in and helps out. I notice the fear and I acknowledge that the thoughts are real. At the same time I am aware that these are just thoughts – no more than that. They are thoughts, not reality. They’re thoughts from a lifetime of thinking in a different context, and two things grow from that. The first is that it’s okay to feel fearful and insecure; I don’t have to be down on myself when I doubt myself or feel really uncertain. The second is that I know that this fear and uncertainty is a part of the process, and so it’s a good thing .. it’s just what I need to be feeling and doing.
Even with the fear that sometimes haunts my thoughts I am feeling overall fairly positive about my future; not certain … but optimistic. I read an article about the health benefits of optimism in this morning’s Globe and Mail. A study that followed 97,000 women has shown that optimism is an important predictor of disease resilience. It defines optimism as knowing that you have to endure the odd rainstorm to see a rainbow. Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University ofPennsylvania, emphatically states that optimism is something we can learn. That’s good because it means that we can all benefit from a doseof optimism (or optimism-training). The article concludes: “While more work is needed on how much optimism is a symptom, rather than a cause, of good health, and how much it can be learned by all, this new trial reveals the significant of your thinking style. As they say, “we can’t predict the wind, but we can set the sails.” Or — in my case — I can’t predict the wind but I can know that my paddles will be dipping into the water and taking me to new delights with the turning of the sun.