I am grateful to have this opportunity to share my story with the Wellness Glow Life Community. When I was almost 70 years old I developed a love/hate relationship with the word retirement. To some extent it sounded appealing and even exotic, especially on days when my job as a School Social Worker was extra challenging. On other days it sounded nebulous, unnecessary and even a little frightening. How did I get to THIS stage of my life so quickly? I relied on my intuition to decide when I was ready. When I was, moving through yet another life cycle event was trepidatious.
As far back as I can remember, I have been a person who moves through life quickly. I enjoy the feeling of motion, problem solving, multitasking and making fast, but thoughtful decisions. As an adult I took pride at skillfully juggling my role as a spouse and as a mom of four, attending graduate school, organizing a social life, taking care of a home and working a full time job. I could prepare and eat a sandwich, change a diaper and navigate a coherent phone call all one time without breaking a sweat! My life ran into my life, moment to moment, day to day, at an incredibly fast pace and I loved it!
I was unsure of how the implications of retirement would potentially impact my lifestyle. I wondered what my days would look like. Would I feel sad, isolated or lonely? I worried that I would have nothing to contribute to the greater good.
Initially, I decided that I would commit to activities daily that would keep my mind and body healthy. The tenets of a healthy lifestyle have always been paramount to me. I have been a vegetarian for almost 30 years and have consistently participated in various exercise/wellness programs for all of my adult life.
With the help of a beloved yoga teacher, I began my journey by setting an intention for each day: being kinder and more tolerant with myself and what I saw were my foibles. My goals were staying calm, noticing my breath, listening to the struggles between my heart and my mind and slowing down to a more easeful life. At first these contemplations appeared reasonable, not lofty and daunting as they eventually became.
It was especially difficult to slow down my daily routine. I continued to live by my calendar. I scheduled and over scheduled myself with so many yesterdays and tomorrows, just not enough todays. Instead of working 40 + hours per week, I began to fill in and add to each week five yoga classes, three weight lifting sessions, multiple barre and Zumba classes, cardio fusion classes, pilates, walking, meditation and peace circles. To me, this appeared to be a well rounded approach to wellness because I was engaged in so many healthy activities.
I became exhausted at simply looking at my schedule each day. There was no time to rest my body or my mind. I held my breath worrying about being late to events and I did not live an easeful life with balance. It took some time for me to become aware that I was engaged in wellness the way I had always practiced my life.
In Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are, he writes about the importance of returning, reconnecting, and living in the present moment, no matter how far ahead of yourself you get. Organically, this theory actually supported me in my professional life when I needed to sort out difficult situations at work. I remembered that if I used my breath to stay present the tasks and eventually the solutions became clearer.
I guess what I am trying to admit is that I didn’t have much balance. My body could skillfully practice many yoga balance poses, but the rest of my life was top heavy! I thought I understood the importance of a lifestyle embracing wellness principles. I also thought I understood the significance of being present. What I was not doing was balancing the two. I could sing the song, but just not yet do the dance, so to speak!
My life is a work in progress. With age does not come all wisdom, but what I have come to learn about myself is that I must consistently work toward balance. I can be as active as I wish. I just need to remember to rest when I need to and enjoy what I am doing whatever that may be. This could be reading a book, washing my hands or eating a sandwich without doing anything else at the same time. Some days I find that notion to be simple and other times it appears hopeless. I will continue to practice yoga balance poses, they certainly help. However, when on the days that my vrkshasana (tree pose) is tippy and swaying and I become frustrated because I did it better yesterday, I will greet myself and enjoy the movement. I might even take my song and dance show on the road someday…..