There are certain seasons that evoke emotions I seldom experience any other time of the year. Autumn, in particular, sends me into personal reverie, not unpleasant nor melancholy; just occasionally a bit more solemn, sometimes stern, and definitely reflective. Seriously, all one has to do is look around to get the picture and understand the direction thoughts can take; everything that was blooming with a multitude of color, was green, lush and productive turns pretty much brown, and falls to the ground. That which was filled with vibrant life is no more. Where I live, the beaches that also were teeming with happy, energetic families and children are all but deserted and silent except for the pounding of the surf, and plaintive cries of lonely gulls. Skies turn mostly gray for days on end, and rain falls intermittently for several months. All together, these things can engender more introspective than sunshiny, let’s go out and plant a garden kinds of days.
Introspection, in moderation, is a good thing. We examine, take stock, separate the clutter from needful things, refine priorities, and move forward, renewed in strength and purpose of self. It is during these times of reflection I like to set new goals, which is especially important, having read repeatedly how necessary it is to keep the mind active as one ages. So, here in retirement, I am even more grateful for the desire I always have had to learn, and find it rewarding to apply in some way that new thing which has been learned. Point being, one has to wonder what good it is if we go to the trouble and effort to tackle and hopefully master a new thing, and then lazily let it slip away, unused and promptly forgotten.
I admit, I am one of those people who tends to tip toe right up to becoming obsessed with whatever new thing I am discovering. Over the years though, I have come to recognize signs telling me to take a breath, blink, eat, slow down, even step away for a while so I do not burn myself out on a new project. I do not recall ever doing anything half heartedly; it always seemed to me one should approach every endeavor with as much passion as possible. And I know for a fact, the reward of any effort is equal to that which was invested in it, including sharing or teaching someone else what has become personally exciting and stimulating. I once was told one does not really learn something until it has been given away. It is true. In sharing or teaching those things that are new to us, we solidify their intricacies within ourselves.
So, in the past decade, as I observed my retired friends, the importance of keeping the mind open, active, curious, and receptive has been confirmed again and again. Those who follow mental and physical disciplines are prospering in their retirement, and giving back to families, friends, and communities a wealth of experience, and sharing new and fresh endeavors, unencumbered by former schedules and commitments that defined pre-retirement days. They are having fun as they learn and pass along the benefits of their efforts; rather like being that footloose and fancy free kid again, but wise enough now not to do the what were we thinking, that was not so bright things of yesteryear, all the while imparting valuable lessons to each other and anyone else who has a heart to receive what is willingly offered.
I have seen ample reasons to fill each and every day with passion and excitement, and a plethora of reasons, including a couple I know we would rather avoid completely, to stay far far away from idleness and indolence. The means to achieving a productive, lively lifestyle actually is quite simple, easy. Find an area of interest, something for which there is a skill or talent, latent or developed; identify what makes the heart glad, or at least did in the past; give oneself permission to explore, to be an adventurer; regardless of how others might view or consider what it is about, go for it with gusto. Doubting ability or worth is useless; nothing will ever come of negativity. Give in to the passion of possibility, and believe in the value of effort. Because without effort of some kind, there never will be any outcome of any kind. And having accomplished whatever you chose, pass it on. Not at all complicated, not at all difficult. One just needs to do it.
Retirement is a beginning, not an end. It means we have the gift of time to do or be what we always wanted, within reason (I know I will never become the ballerina I once envisioned, but that is all right; I still can love dance and appreciate other dancers’ accomplishments), to learn and share whatever remains of areas unexplored or unexplained. While we still are able, we need to at least try to grab hold of that brass ring. I am not sure it is in the actual attainment of the ring we would find the most satisfaction; rather, I believe climbing aboard that noble steed on the spinning carousel, bent on capturing the one brass ring amongst all the iron ones, and giving it our best effort is where the greatest reward will lie.
Yes, I do believe we retirees must try to give whatever is before us our all, never abandoning our hopes, never forsaking our dreams; we need to stretch and reach out with confidence, because if we do not, if we give up, I know we will fall by the wayside, just as the beautiful flowers and leaves do each autumn. Only for us, if we allow that to happen, I am convinced it will be before our time, a season ended much too soon.