As I write this month’s column, I am on the deck of a small cruise ship. The Douro River quietly flows by, small towns contained within ancient terraced stone walls rise on either side. The landscape and architecture are completely different from southern Portugal where we have spent the winter, a new view of the country we have come to love over the past five years.
I share this because this winter, and the choices we have made for how we are now living, have arisen as the result of retirement. Oh, how I hesitate to use this word, RETIREMENT. In many ways I have been at war within myself regarding this topic. The thought of no longer working, of teaching, facilitating, and coaching, has left me wondering what life means if I am no longer contributing this way. Some tell me that after working for 50+ years I deserve it, others look at me like I am crazy. I have rationalized not retiring by telling myself that I am self-employed and as a result I really have nothing to retire from. And yes, this has worked until recently.
As 2023 opened its doors and a new year emerged, I set an intention to ‘lighten-up’. Things began to show up very early. The work project I had the privilege of leading last year, came to a sudden end when my client decided not to continue the funding. Another small contract evaporated when we decided the parameters were not perfect and pulled the plug. For the first time in years there were no projects hovering in the wings. To my surprise, I felt relieved. What was this new found ‘lightness’?
Then I kept receiving messages about ‘being free’. Really, I thought. I am free until I recognized I was not. I was tied down to our work, to many responsibilities I had assumed, to expectations I had of myself, and more. There was no space for freedom, at least not in its truest from, the freedom to simply rise each day and wonder what the day would present me with and what I wanted to do with this space. Giving me a new understanding of what was possible and setting me a new course.
For years I have explained to others that it is not time management we need, but space management. Consider this, how much space in your life is consumed by:
– your work
– your expectations, ‘shoulds’ and must do’s
– the expectations others have of you
– the obligations you have assumed , accepted or inherited
– the superfluous, unnecessary, habits?
Now consider this,
– how much space do you have in your life to dream, vision, imagine?
– how much space do you have for daily practices such as meditation, exercise, any form of space dedicated specifically for you?
– how much space do you have for activities which you value, which have meaning to you?
– do you find yourself wondering when the really important things will become your top priority?
More on Freedom
‘I am free”.
This was a message card I pulled time and time again in recent months. In exploring this, I realized yes, I do want to be free of many things. More importantly I wanted to be free to be in my life differently. I want the freedom retirement offers, to explore, to travel, to experiment, to simply be curious. I realized that my space was so dedicated to our business and what I had come to know in recent years, that I really could not see the forest for the trees.
I decided to dissect the idea of retirement, to re-position it in my life, and I began to realize that retirement means what you decide it does. It does not necessarily mean ‘couch potato’, purposeless, boredom, isolation, or some many of the qualities I attributed to stepping away. It is simply the opportunity to re-frame your life and in some ways re-invent yourself. In the context of space, this new found freedom also gives me the time to pursue more vigorously my passions as well as opening that space for what I have, up to now, not been able to see.
So folks, harnessing my curiosity, opening my heart to possibility, and embracing freedom – the time has arrived. Consider this my formal announcement – I am officially retired. Even as I write this, I feel the trepidation. After working professionally for over 50 years, this feels like a huge step. And it is time!
You might think that these musings do not apply to you as you are not in the ‘retirement zone’. Not so. These life altering decisions are what I refer to as life transitions, a time in your life when change is imminent and when you are faced with closing some doors so as to have the space to open others. This could be a career change, a lifestyle change, empty nest or a significant loss. Regardless, the challenges remain the same.
I encourage everyone to explore how you engage your space and to ask if that space is occupied by the things that are truly important to you. We all know life has an expiration date. It may be time to pause, reflect, rewind, or renew and remind yourself what it is that is most important to you at this time of your life and make sure there is adequate space for it. I often ask myself, ‘if not now, when?’
It is human nature to delay, to put off what you most want until tomorrow. Take a look at what you are postponing and ask yourself, if not now, when?
Until next time!
Your thoughts and strategies are always welcome and if you care to share you can reach me at: [email protected]