It might have been a coincidence – perhaps not – but I was asked a question this past week as I was reading chapter 6 of Mindfulness by Ellen Langer, entitled “Mindful Aging.” And the question, by a friend, was this: “Have you thought about what you’re going to do when you retire?”
I’m of an age when that question is not unusual. At work, there are two of us about the same age, and then there’s a gap of some years, and then one person 10 years younger and then several 20 years younger. And then all those 20-somethings, many of whom I helped to hire.
My answer to the question: “I don’t plan to retire.”
Now there may come a time when I “retire” from where I officially work. But I don't plan to “retire.” I see it simply as a new phase of what I’ll be doing in life, assuming health and physical condition cooperate.
Retirement, for me, won’t be about the pursuit of “leisure.” I can’t imagine myself living from golf game to golf game (I don’t play golf), nor can I imagine myself in some retirement community in Arizona, going shirtless to the grocery store.
But it will be about the pursuit of something, but not leisure.
And it won’t be about surrounding myself with grandchildren. (Note that I use the plural; Cameron is going to become a brother next May.) I dearly love my grandson and grandchild to come, but they won’t be around me all the time. And that’s as it should be. They, and their parents, have their own lives to live. I can love and influence and be there when needed – but I can’t dominate and I can’t direct.
I do know some of what I’ll be doing.
I have a desire to get more involved in missions, a desire that’s been quietly growing since I did a short-term missions trip in 2002 to Eastern Europe. The desire is not to become a missionary in a foreign land, but simply to become more involved. That’s all I understand for now.
And I will be writing. Writing has been a part of my life since I was about 9, and it always will be, as long as I can hold a pen, press a letter on a computer keyboard, or speak into a microphone or video camera.
Most of my writing has been in corporate communications – speeches, articles, papers, news releases, reports, and now tweets and Facebook posts. But that has been changing, and it will continue to change.
A novel manuscript I’ve been working on for five years has caught the interest of a small, new publisher. It’s now been edited by an extraordinarily gifted editor and published author. The draft contract in sitting in my email box, and it seems fair and reasonable (although I’m asking my attorney to look it over). Given how fast this can happen today, it may be published by the end of this year.
It’s not serious or literary fiction. It’s a story, one that had been bottled up inside me for three years before I wrote the first word. It started on a airline flight to San Francisco, when I was listening to one of those music channels and heard a song called “Luna Rosa” (sung in Italian). The song evoked an image in my mind – a priest dancing on a beach at sunset. It was an image that wouldn’t let go. The beach is gone, and so is the sunset but the image of the dancing priest remains and lies at the center of the manuscript.
What I’ve learned is that publishing this manuscript, while gratifying and exciting, is not the point. The writing, the telling of the story, is the point.
So, no, I don’t intend to retire. I intend to “mindfully age,” as Langer describes in her book.
I still have too many stories I’m supposed to tell.