August 25, 2013

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Heschel

I have been retired from my day-job for three years, but I have officially retired from the consulting business now. I expect to take down my business website by the end of this year. It’s curious to me that once again, I return to this blog to mark a passage.

Thankfully, I am engaged in volunteer pursuits that keep me busy (enough). I am contest chair for the fall contests sponsored by the Georgia Poetry Society, I am treasurer-elect for the local Literacy Coalition, and I am volunteering in the Unitarian Universalist Church office (as well as singing in the choir). Soon I will go to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a week-long writing workshop, which I hope will inspire me to resume my writing practice.

“Retire” sounds like “retread” to me. And there is something to that image: a whole new out-look, more traction (less dis-traction), getting a better grip on things, even when it’s raining. (And it’s certainly done a lot of that here this summer!)

Age brings the blessings of greater understanding and wider perspective. Even as the body is deteriorating, the soul is expanding. I am grateful for soul-expansion!

Sitting With Possibility

July 3, 2011

Since I retired, I have been concerned about the amount of time I have spent sitting. The medical establishment says this takes years off one’s lifetime. I have found it compelling to sit, as I am unsure what I want to get up and do! Meanwhile, life goes on: yoga, writing groups, lunch with friends, therapy, teaching, work, travel, sleep. So it’s not exactly true that I’ve been sitting for a year, although sometimes it does feel that way–like I will think back on 2010-11 as “my year of sitting.”

As my post  in early June attests, my summer is actually a busy one for a “retired” person. But I feel as if I’m sitting still between spurts of activity, like I am incubating somehow. What is to be born?

I have rented a “room of my own,” a creative space, which I will assume August 1. It is in downtown Dahlonega, above Brad Walker Pottery and behind the Front Porch Restaurant. I have no idea what will happen there, except that I know it will be only what makes my heart sing. It is fun to think about possibilities. But I think the first thing I will do is just sit in the emptiness, contemplating that. I am so very grateful for time and space. All the while trying to remember that the present moment is all there is.

What calls to you? Can you sit with the possibility until you hear it?

Becoming Nobody

March 12, 2011

When I retired from my day job, I decided I wouldn’t do much marketing for my consulting business–partly because I no longer want to work full-time. So I have been content to let work flow in as it will, to observe what that looks like. Well…apparently the nature of consulting is feast or famine. After months with just a little (maybe enough) work, this week brought three new jobs, which means I’ll probably be much busier in the coming months. This unpredictability will take some getting used to, and I may have to say “no” at some point.

But I like having the ability to let life be whatever it is. Thoreau said of his time at Walden Pond: There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of head or hands. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.

Ram Dass says, You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody, there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed—and the natural state of the mind is pure love.

I think of my shifting focus on being, not doing, as a great gift. Note the present participle “shifting”–I have certainly not reached that state of unobstructed mind Ram Dass talks about! But I feel fortunate to have had so many teachers and opportunities that have helped me reach this moment of awareness. May you all have the gifts of time, teachers, and opportunity to become nobody.


March 11, 2011

Since I retired in June, I have felt a bit adrift. There is something to be said for having a reason to shower and dress and show up somewhere. And whether or not you are close to your coworkers, there is also something to be said for being part of work group, having to say “Good morning” to others!

I am beginning to anchor myself now around Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning yoga classes. I am so grateful for my teacher, Paula, who gives generously of her time, expertise, and energy to offer several wonderful and inexpensive classes a week in this community. I am grateful, too, for the discipline of yoga and the many who have passed along the knowledge and techniques over the centuries.

And now, I’ll head out: yoga class, a much-needed haircut, lunch with a friend, then a bit of work in the afternoon. Retirement is sweet! Namaste.

Ease Up!

August 6, 2010

We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless…Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating  ease. ~Elizabeth Gilbert*

Having recently retired from my “regular” job, I have been interested in my fluctuating attitudes toward work, discipline, and creating new routines for myself. Life just feels different nowadays–different than it did when I was working, different than I thought it would feel, and different on different days. Sometimes it’s blissful (These Days), sometimes it feels like I’m spiraling downward and only have the energy to nap, and some days I am pleasantly productive without a lot of striving.

Today, this hit me in a new way: I get to choose. I can decide moment to moment how or even if I want to be engaged. I can notice what feeds me, what depletes me. I can determine whether I have done enough work, played enough, paid enough attention to relationships, meditated enough, exercised enough, and been kind enough to myself! Meanwhile, I am trying to avoid attachment to the good days and aversion to the not-so-good, to just experience each day as it comes.

What do you think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice?

*The passage is reprinted from Seth Godin’s free e-book, What Matters Now. Get it here.

Morning, Retired

July 13, 2010

At night make me one with the darkness. In the morning make me one with the light. ~Wendell Berry

People keep asking how retirement is. Today, this came as at least a partial answer.

These Days

These days, I wake smiling
as the sun seeps into the room.
Dreams recede or speak.
I lie still in the birdsong–
no buzzing alarm,
only the sweetness of morning
and you beside me,
softly breathing.

Semi-Retired and Loving It

April 7, 2010

Devote six years to your work but in the seventh go into solitude or among strangers so that your friends, by remembering what you were, do not prevent you from being what you have become. ~Leo Szilard

Everyone should have a sabbatical every so often. I have been working practically non-stop since I graduated from college in 1975. It has been next to impossible to separate my self from my work. Yet in recent years, I have longed to be reacquainted with who I am outside of my vocation. Not that there are radical differences, just that work (as I engaged it) has taken vital energy, energy that I now crave for learning how to be (as opposed to do) in the world. Perhaps others are able to do both at once, but I have always found it difficult, as I chose a vocation about which I was truly passionate. My colleagues were my friends; my friends were my colleagues, for the most part.

And now I am working only half-time in preparation for retirement. There is time for rest, for reflection, for getting reacquainted with my soul.

I think the concept of sabbatical is brilliant. According to Wikipedia (could be true!), 20% of British companies have a career break policy. In the U. S., it seems that only academic and spiritual work environments offer sabbaticals. And those sabbaticals can feel like just more work. I believe enlightened workplaces could offer sabbaticals that give the employee great latitude for self-exploration, with few “products” expected. Life is process. Can businesses honor the process, the individual quest for self-understanding, spiritual enlightenment if you will, and still be profitable? I believe so. And certainly the social services should give inherently underpaid and overstressed employees a periodic break from their labors.

What do you think?


January 5, 2010

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is…more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power. ~Alan Cohen

I have given notice at work, and will be leaving full-time employment at the end of March. I will work a couple of part-time months at a library system, then retire. This will give me more time to build and market my new consulting business, as well as attend to soul time.

If you’re interested in the growth and development of libraries and nonprofits, you can check out my Web site here and my business blog here. Go ahead–critique and comment!

During this period I will be vigilant about keeping my new business activity separate from salaried work time. Mindfulness will be especially important for me in the upcoming months, so that I am fully present in whichever sphere I am working. But I am starting to feel the energy and power of movement!

Will 2010 mean change in your life? What adventures await you?

Creative Space

February 2, 2008

Creative endeavor requires physical and mental space; without privacy, solitude, and time it suffocates. It is not easy to be independent in a crowd and it is impossible to pursue independent thought in the scattered remnants of a day or of a lifetime….Finally, the creative life requires an environment which is free, open, and never so logical and efficient that it cannot be unpredictable.  ~Judith Groch

I have been too much with the world the past few weeks. Today I am enjoying a little window of space and time before I go back to that hurried existence. There are days when I long to retire in order to have that “physical and mental space” Groch talks about. I remember a luxurious, solitary, twelve-hour train ride on Amtrak’s “Southern Crescent” that resulted in this little poem:

From the Crescent

Dry, brown kudzu climbs the banks
as the river sludges, rain-red,
beside the train.
Walls of windworn rock
loom suddenly, then fall away.

Language spatters the whitewash of sound
on board: floating phrases, murmurs,
an occasional cry.
Hours stretch before me–grace–
and I rock in the rhythm of all things.