Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Better Late than Never

"...part of the wonder of aging today is that we get the time to discover our second chances."
~ Michael Gurian
The Wonder of Aging

I was so relieved to come across this line in the Wonder of Aging, the best book I've read to date on the subject . The concept of discovering a second chance rather than declaring a  lofty "purpose" ( something I had been struggling with) seemed more reasonable and more attainable.  Some folks seem to arrive at retirement with a clear sense of how they will spend this new stage of their lives.  Whether it be to volunteer, or pursue a hobby or new venture, or enjoy travel and special interests with loved ones, they easily and eagerly set off on a new direction.  Not I.

I knew that I didn't want to age as my parents had, in poor health, dissatisfied with life, their world becoming narrower and narrower with every passing month.  But when retirement arrived, I found that I hadn't developed a clear idea of how I did want to age.

So, I set off on a rather convoluted journey of experimentation.  I tried activities I thought I might be interested in, perhaps even thought I should be interested in, or activities others recommended or seemed to enjoy..  I joined a couple book clubs. I volunteered as a docent for 4th and 5th graders visiting the local Art Museum.  I became active in a couple non-profit organizations, surprising myself as I have never been a joiner.  I attended classes, tried my hand at drawing, even knitting. 

Along the way, I noted in my journals whether I did enjoy the activity, whether I felt I added something by my involvement, whether it was satisfying, engaging, whether I had enough skill or the desire and commitment to acquire the skill if I didn't.  Whether I looked forward to it or not.

Along the way, I discovered - that I want to read so many things and to learn about so many topics that I can't do justice to more than one book club; that I no longer have the patience required to deal with the natural exuberance of 4th and 5th graders; that I am not the social animal I thought I was; that I value time alone to read and draw and enjoy my home and my relationships with a few close friends and family.  That I prefer small intimate groups where I feel I still can make a difference.  That there are specific skills I want to develop before I die, like speaking Italian, drawing, using the computer more effectively, and surprisingly, after all these years, cooking.  

Ultimately, with Gurian's inspiration, I arrived at this conclusion-  that this is my second chance - to pursue every day something that intrigues me, something that inspires me, something that brings me personal satisfaction, something that piques my curiosity.  Not because I think I should or because someone else wants me to, but simply because I want to.  

I realize I am blessed...I  have a loving and supportive husband who needs and wants as much personal time and space as I do, siblings and friends whose company enriches the simplest conversation, adequate funds, a nice home in a safe community, a sound mind in a sound body.  I am always grateful.  But clarifying my second chance, discovering it over time has enveloped it all in a blanket of contentment I didn't realize I was searching for.  I know how I want to age.

No comments:

Post a Comment