I am a 64-year-old woman approaching retirement from a job I love. My husband died eight years ago and my children are married and have their own busy lives. I have been pretty steady throughout my life so I am surprised at how anxious I am about leaving my job and becoming a senior. What are your thoughts about how to move into this next stage of my life?
You are not alone in your angst about turning 65. Since forced retirement is no longer permitted, I presume your decision to retire is one you have made carefully. For many, retirement represents the opportunity to explore interests and activities long denied. For others it's a death knell, representing lost opportunities and fear of what lies ahead. Maybe you are not as senior as you think you are. The old age security pension was brought into being in 1927 when the average life span was 68.5 years. Today, many of us live well into our 80s.
The Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankel, author of Man's Search for Meaning, believed that the three most important things in life are work, relationships and creativity. When we leave our occupation we may be letting go of all three of these. Work provides structure, community and a sense of purpose (even if the purpose is to pick up a cheque every two weeks). You'll need to replace these.
Ideally we should begin to think about retirement well before the date arrives. The word retire was adopted from its naval use, as in retiring old battleships. Ships were said to be taken out of service. The phrase rings grim when applied to us but maybe it is useful. What part of your life would you like to take out of service and what part do you want to keep alive and vital? The key is to maintain an active engagement with the future.
This piece of your life is as important as any other, so think of your life as moving on and up rather than down and out. Introspection is advisable. Take the time to quiet your heart. You'll need to calm that angst in order to think clearly. Don't underestimate the advantage of having 64 years of life experience to inform your direction. Take an inventory of where you have been and where you would like to go and see if you can identify the specifics of your fear. I suspect that loss is at the centre of it.
Many who fear the future run the risk of filling up their time too quickly or allowing others to fill it up for them. Stand sentry over both your time and your energy. Don't lose the opportunity to live the life you can imagine.
Margaret Anne Speak, M.A., C.C.P.A, works with couples, individuals and families from a Bowen Family Systems perspective at Family Services of the North Shore. Questions? Write firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-988-5281.