Who are we when no one is looking, when we don't have to have on our public image. How do we marry the image and ideal of what we want to do and who we are , with the reality of who we are and what we actually do.
Who are we when we are faced with the truth after telling ourselves all the things we could or would do IF.
I always saw the dream of retirement as the time I was finally going to do all the IF things of life . You know all those things that work, lifestyle , time, commitments allegedly stopped me from doing, all those self imposed get out of jail free cards I gave myself. Yep not my fault I'm busy, I can't do that , go there, commit to that, I am busy. But ONE DAY ............... If I wasn't so busy being busy I was mostly exhausted from being busy, so my downtime was spent napping or resting and dreaming of when time would be my friend and all of those IF things I would finally do. But what is busy, other than a self inflicted state we work ourselves into for some strange reason. For some it is a badge of importance and self worth, I think for me it fed my high octane control freak tendencies and my total lack of dedication to self care and self reflection. Being busy allows us no time to stop and think and address the things in life that maybe we should like health and wellbeing.
I was in a very privileged position where retirement for me was my get out of jail free option.The busyness of life was making me ill, and in a strange way Covid lockdowns were the circuit breaker/ wake up call that I and I suspect many others found as the catalyst to re- evaluate our lifestyles and life choices. As I slowed down I thought of the futile wasted busyness of the previous years and all those things I wanted to do , all the adventures I wanted to go on and finally the biggest decision for me was to make ME the first option. Now there is a lot of childhood conditioning around the idea of selfishness and laziness that I had to unpack to get to that point and that has been in itself a challenge. The goal is to balance it all with give and take, a little bit from column A and a little from column B and one would hope somewhere in the middle is where we end up. Also being a Libran I need celestial balance so this is sort of my end goal, it's in the stars !
So how is retirement or this alternate life working out you may ask. I must say pretty bloody good.
I wake up some days and say to myself that I am actually really happy , like I feel it in my bones, a simple joy of just floating through life. I am fortunate that I really enjoy my own company, I find simple pleasure in doing nothing things, I write when the mood takes me and feel no guilt if I don't. I try to read but the stack of books near my bed keeps growing as I get drawn outside . My garden is spectacular as I now have time to talk to my plants and I also gently kiss my favourites ( the flowering magnolia is at the minute getting some serious appreciative love ) The sunflowers are raising their smiley yellow faces at me and fill me with indescribable joy. I get time each day to walk around my garden and inspect the small changes, the little things in life.
I also have time to continue my virtual walk around Australia which surprisingly has been such a great focus and one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. I love the challenge of reaching my destination and reducing the estimated finish date, the super bonus is it keeps me fit and has had such a positive impact on my overall health. With this new found confidence in my health I joined the "old peoples " gym and I have been loving myself sick at how strong I am getting. ( as I write this I can see my mother rolling her eyes at such vanity and it makes me smile - that childhood conditioning again )
Which brings me to my current writing project " Unpacking the Suitcase " that I pick up when I am in the mood or when I have an opening in the part of the brain portal that flickers all these thoughts that I just need to write down. I enjoy the first draft as it is the purest form of writing. The concept is there, some of the chapters but then you can go on another tangent and end up somewhere else. I have around 25,000 words that one day will mean something or be constructed into an end goal and there are many thousands of words to come . The beauty or some would say the frustration of writing is you never know what becomes of all the words, what makes them into the story. These days it is not so important that the story gets told, it is what it is.
I have ditched the fantasy of what I once believed would be "retirement me" , she was going to be on community committees saving the world on a micro level, spend days travelling and holidaying because she was brave enough to do it solo ( not gonna happen I'm a scaredy cat ) , she was going to learn a new skill or language and spend days lunching and socialising with her new found clique.
I have finally made friends with real me who likes her own quiet company and potters around in her own world, she laughs a lot, sings loud and dances by herself , she talks to her plants, goes on long rambling walks and brunches with people she truly loves . The real me finally accepts that she doesn't have to prove anything to anyone. The real me is learning and appreciating the process of being and living each day in this gentle joy.
May you find the quiet joy inside you and indulge yourself in it , no explanations, no excuses.