From an article on the glamorous grandmas of Instagram in NYTimes this week:
“Our collective understanding of what later life looks like remains woefully outdated,” Marie Stafford, the European director of the JWT Innovation Group, wrote in her introduction. “Age no longer dictates the way we live. Physical capacity, financial circumstances and mind-set arguably have far greater influence.” (Emphasis mine)
My mindset around the idea of retirement has evolved over the past two years. I share this thought with you because it took me some time to learn it, and these words might provide a shortcut to you.
Retirement is a blank canvas on which we build our new life, and our legacy. It’s a fresh chance to lean into the habits, interests, and activities that are most true to ourselves, listening to the ideas and hopes that give us juice, within the circumstances that naturally constrain us.
I have alot of experience with life at this age. I have some sense of how I like to spend my time. The last few years of my working life felt like a pinnacle; it may have just been the culmination of a career trying on likes and dislikes and finally knowing what I like best. Now I am retired, I have time to build my best self from scratch. This is the person whom others meet today – not the decisive executive (also bossy), or organized administrator (also rigid), or thoughtful team leader (also sometimes thoughtless) that I was in my career days.
If I do it right, my best attributes – built over years in those roles – shine through and mix with what I’m learning now into an authentic and true self. This is what I bring to this thing we call retirement.
I love this video of Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt talking about the stories we tell ourselves and how these stories either empower or constrain us.
What is the story I am telling myself about my situation? How do I feel, and behave, when I tell myself this story? If I stopped telling myself this particular story, over and over, what else might I see, hear, or experience?
A visual depiction of your health might be this: a clean, neat chain of DNA pulled taut, a chain that is tugged on and pulled at by all kinds of outside factors during your long life. The chain gets dirty, and stretched thin in places, and that is aging. If however, the chain breaks, you have yourself a disease that can be acute (like a cancer) or chronic (autoimmune, or neurodegenerative) disease. A disease that our allopathic doctors continue to treat with the same tools that may have enabled the disease in the first place.
What broke my chain of health? Was it an intervention like the thyroid my doctors recommended be removed via radioactive isotope? Or a long-term treatment, like the statins I took for years? Was it something more systemic like all the food I have eaten that’s been raised with glyphosate, or meat raised on factory farms with antibiotics and growth hormones? Was it the inflammation caused by too much manufactured “food” and not enough of the fresh nutritious stuff, or by the sugar that was a true addiction for me for most of my life? I have drunk a lot of good wine, used a lot of commercial skin and beauty products, flown a lot of miles exposed to high altitude radiation. I have let stress run my life. I have gone whole years without serious exercise. Any of these stressors could have been the tug that broke my health chain.
My goal in this thing we call retirement is two-fold: first, to learn everything I can about whole health and apply these lessons to myself so that I don’t break my chain of health in another spot, and second, to sound the alarm to those who can hear the bell.