THE HALFOLESCENCE BLOG
A Journey to a Deeper Life
There is a well-known quote from Anne Lamott, in which she says, “A shitty first draft, while not a thing of beauty, is a miracle of victory over nothingness, inertia, bad self-esteem. Secret? Butt in chair.”
I’ve sat here in this chair for 2-1/2 hours, since 3:30 am. But I haven’t been alone. I sat with some amazing people. Carl Jung talked with me about welcoming an emptiness that isn’t empty at all. I participated in a small group with a Buddhist, a Hindu, Jesus, and an Old Turtle from a children’s story. We enjoyed an animated and amazing conversation. Later, Thomas Merton mentored me into listening in silence and Ted Kooser showed me a different way to see a young lady in a wheelchair. Garrison Keillor stopped in and introduced me to a book of “Good Poems” that he edited. It’s been as fun a time as I can remember.
My wife and I have toyed on and off with the idea of moving into a retirement facility someday. In order to get a better picture of what that could be like, we attended an open house at Freedom Village of Holland, Michigan, in December of 2016. In general, we liked what we saw, but we also had many concerns by the end of our visit. I am going to share both here, as I suspect that we would respond in a similar manner to many conventional retirement facilities.
Many of the things that fueled your life―things that kept your passion, drive, and growth alive―phased out of your life. The previous sources of your fuel-rich life no longer supply you. You may discover that you are slowing down, getting bored, and becoming lethargic. You are starved for more fuel in your life.
If you are living a fuel-starved life in retirement, you have two options that will set the trajectory for your upcoming decades in retirement.
My companionable dreads were at work in that small room in 2007. I could feel myself becoming sedate, satisfied, and settled; dormant, dull, and risk-free; and immovable, done, stalled, and unchanging. It was the trajectory of my life in retirement, my family’s pattern, what culture expected of me, and my primary portrait of retirement. I was coasting to a stop and hated it.
My amazing, shadowy companions, however, had something very different in mind for my retirement years. They poked and prodded, unsettled and disturbed, energized and motivated. My ten friends didn’t let me coast to a stop. They met with me as I sat in my Herman Miller chair that morning in 2007.
Before making each major change in my life, I needed some pushing back and forth. Some of the rocking came from external sources, like a change of leadership or role. Other rocking came from internal sources, such as unrest, questions, and weariness.
Looking back, I am deeply grateful for the times of being rocked. I could have easily settled for less growth and adventure without it.