Last week I went to an event that felt very big to me: my 50th college reunion! Now if you do the math, you'll see that I'm in my 70's, which seems big enough on some days. But faced with a room full of 300 other 70-somethings (I spoke on the class panel) was truly daunting. And, a great honor.
After I got over my bout of "I'm not Good Enough" and another bout of "What Do I Have to Say?," I tuned into the wonderful opportunity it was to really think about the topic for the panel: What Leads to Post Retirement Satisfaction?
Now, I'm not sure how many of you spirited women are even approaching retirement age, but if you are, you know that everything begins to change. The challenges inherent in the last chapter of life look very different from the challenges of even ten years ago, let alone 50. And so satisfaction looks different too.
My premise was that we college students were trained to rely on our minds to create happiness. We went out in the world ready to DO, to make things happen, to solve problems. We were fixers and creators. Builders.
When you get older, you can't necessarily master mountain climbing and business- building in the same old way. Doing naturally begins to defer to being. And while doing was an outer job that was dependent on the mind, being is an inner job that is dependent on the heart.
Here are three questions I shared with my classmates, related to the journey into the wild, untamed territory of the heart:I hope they're valid, no matter what age you are.
1. Are you creating inner adventures of awe and wonder? I used to rely on outer adventures, and like most people aware of aging, I've made bucket lists. Learning to fly an airplane was on my bucket list, and I did it. But these days I don't fly by myself any more. Instead, when I fly with my husband, my adventure takes place through the lens of my camera, where I explore the patterns on Mother Earth. What are your inner adventures?
2. Are you attending to healing as opposed to curing? We all want cures for our ills; curing has to do with fixing. But as we age, all our ills may not be curable. There is no cure for death, for instance. But we can heal; we can become whole. We can heal the heart's hurts, resentments and fears, and die healed. How are you attending to your healing?
3. Are you exploring the mystical, spiritual dimensions of the heart? If you dare to step into the wild terrain of the deep heart, you are walking into the Source of all, into the One, into your own essence. You're exploring the really big questions like, Who am I, really? And when you discover your own divinity within that realm, you are filled with joy and gratitude. My own new ambition is to be so full of that great Love that on my last day, I'll say something similar to what Steve Jobs was reported to say before passing away: "Wow."
To get ready for that last day involves, I believe, not concentrating on death, but on life. If we can learn to really take in all the dimensions of life and to allow ourselves to change and grow even when it's uncomfortable, then I think we have a chance to graduate in style.