How Can We Embrace the Shifts That Occur as We Age
Have you experienced shifts in your priorities, your goals, and even your dreams throughout your 60s and beyond?
Shifts are those changes in our thinking and our attitudes that evolve as we age. Sometimes subtle and spontaneous, other times profound and life changing, these shifts can shake us to the very core of our being.
My first experience with what I now call ‘The Shift’ occurred when I was approaching retirement. At age 60, I looked forward with great anticipation to a new life in retirement, still five years away.
I worked diligently to pay off my mortgage and looked forward to spending hours gardening, working out, enjoying time with friends, travelling a little, and having luxurious free time. The vision of this idyllic life propelled me forward for a couple of years.
A Life Change
But then, a shift happened. Changes at work. Some health issues and a body that was indeed slowing down. Fatigue. Cynicism about life and work. A loss of joie-de-vivre, a loss of passion, and a loss of belief in what I was working for (besides that necessary pay cheque).
At 63, I realized I couldn’t go on this way anymore. One morning, as I walked across the parking lot at work with a dear colleague, I confided to her that I felt I just couldn’t “do it” anymore. Her reaction came as a complete surprise to me.
This intelligent and well-respected woman, always composed, articulate, and confident, broke into tears and said, “I know exactly what you mean.” Long story short, we both retired that year, two years before our ‘without penalty’ retirement date.
I guess we had both decided that our mental, spiritual, and physical health were more important than a bigger pension. Neither of us has ever looked backed, despite living now on very restricted retirement budgets.
Transitions Can Be Challenging
That is not to say that early retirement was without its challenges. Going from a crazy-intensive schedule to unlimited, unstructured time was an adjustment.
The thing I missed most at first was the daily interaction with my colleagues – the little chats in the hallway or the bathroom, the shared coffees and the shared laughter and tears, and even the shared griping about work!
I quickly joined my local YMCA and found a new group of acquaintances – mostly recently retired professional women with whom I shared a lot of common ground. These friendships gradually replaced my work relationships.
Another Life Shift?
Now, two years into retirement, I find myself going through another shift. Is this what ageing is all about?
All of a sudden, the cherished home that I worked so hard to pay off is becoming too much for me. The beautiful gardens where I have spent countless hours expressing my creative side are now giving me knee pain.
My back hurts and I am tired. My arthritis flares up in summer after gardening and in winter after snow shoveling. It wasn’t supposed to be this way!
Other changes are happening as well. Neighbourhood density and noise. Inconsiderate neighbours. A lack of respect for the environment. I feel I don’t fit in here anymore.
I am scared! I am on my own with no one to help me. In a few years, my home will need a new roof. Can I afford that?
I have looked at options – downsizing, renting an apartment, moving into a condo, but nothing ‘feels’ right just yet.
Affordability is also an issue. My home is mortgage-free, which makes this lifestyle affordable. What if I sell my home only to regret it later? How will I spend my free time when there are no more gardens to tend and household projects to complete?
Acknowledge the Fear and Talk It Out
Overcome with fear and anxiety, I realize that I just need to breathe. Breathe long and deep! I look to my new-found friendships at the Y.
One woman lost her husband to cancer very suddenly. Another experienced ‘gray divorce’ five years into retirement. And yet another, a woman who is happily married, confessed that she and her husband don’t have a lot of common interests, which presents new problems in retirement.
I look to these women and I see resilience. They are carrying on! They are exercising – looking after their bodies and their minds and their social needs.
We go for coffee sometimes and we laugh, share stories, and even shed a few tears. We are all moving forward and finding new joys in life. We are strong and we are adapting to what life throws at us. We need each other. There is comfort in sharing our stories.
Spirituality and Adjusting My Sails
As I begin to realize that what I am really experiencing is the fear of change and the fear of my unknown future, I turn to spirituality. While I am not Buddhist, I find wisdom in some of the teachings of the Buddha which emphasize that impermanence and change are undeniable truths of our existence.
Life is compared to a river, which is continuously moving and changing. Resistance to change only intensifies the discomfort.
I also find solace in my Christian beliefs and remember that there is a time and a season for everything. I read the Bible and am encouraged. I acknowledge that letting go of that which I can’t control can create space for something new to emerge – even if I don’t yet know what that “something new” is.
Jimmy Dean, the late American country music singer, said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” I believe that we are all seeking a destination of happiness, whatever that means to us.
I now resolve that I will adjust my sails and do whatever it takes to move forward with my present circumstances, be happy, and continuously press on to explore new joys and new experiences in this life. It will be worth the effort!
What shifts have you experienced in your 60s and beyond? What has helped you to adapt to these shifts? What advice would you give to women to continuously move forward and find joy in life regardless of their circumstances? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.