When I said I was moving to Bali, someone asked, “What are you running from?” The question struck me as odd. I wasn’t running from, I was running to. After years of doing for others this was for me, my great adventure. It was also a test. Could I survive the loneliness that was sure to come?
I’d been there only once. It was a two-week vacation with my daughter, Jessa, who was teaching in South Korea at the time. “Why don’t you meet me in Bali for your 60th birthday?” she said. So I did.
The island bombarded my senses with green, with scented air, flowers, temples, ceremonies, and the throbbing percussion of gamelan music. But what touched me most deeply were the Balinese people. They were kind, with a generosity of spirit I’d never experienced before.
If I hadn’t taken that trip, I would never have chosen to retire in a land on the opposite side of the world from family and friends. And even though I’d visited, there was no way I could picture what life would look like for me in a third world country with a culture so foreign and exotic mere words could only pretend do it justice.
But the terraced rice paddies cascading down the mountainsides had seared their image into my retina and the warmth of the people had stolen a chunk of my heart.
What happened after that is a love story. But first I had to let go.
The years between that adventure and retirement at age 62, were agony interspersed with moments of hope. It was a two-year period of blistering change. Part of the momentum was induced when I had my birth chart read. I listened to the astrologer tell my life story, though she’d never met me and I’d told her nothing. I felt seen in ways I’d never been seen before. But at the end of the reading her stern words shocked me to my core: This is a window of opportunity, Sherry. If you don’t change your life now, you’re nailing your coffin shut.
I was hanging on to a marriage that should never have happened. It was dead and we both knew it, but neither of us was willing to make the necessary move to end it. I was hanging on to a job I hated because it paid the bills. I was hanging on to a lifestyle that stroked my ego but wasn’t me. I was hanging on to a carefully constructed façade that masked an empty soul. And as I sat on the couch next to my husband watching television night after night, I knew I was just marking time waiting to die.
Those words, nailing your coffin shut, became my mantra.
It was as though a switch had been flipped. I initiated the divorce, quit real estate, and took a job in a consignment shop. It paid next to nothing but I loved it. I moved into an apartment in the artsy part of the city where I’d always wanted to live. I joined a drumming circle and the primal pounding of thirty drums was pure medicine. I took writing classes, learned meditation, yoga, qigong and journaled like a woman possessed.
When my daughter’s contract in South Korea ended, she came to Minnesota and moved in with me. We turned the spacious, light-filled living room into a yoga studio where she taught classes in her sensitive, nurturing way. I attended all of them. Before every session we pushed the furniture to the walls and rolled up the massive Oriental rug. The space shrunk as attendance grew. I began selling the furnishings, one piece at a time, then art, then china. With the profits I paid off debt.
One blustery winter morning sitting in the kitchen nook with a notebook and coffee, a candle burning, smoke from incense spiraling upward, a question leaked out of my pen. What about Bali? Instant tears rivered down my cheeks. I saw the rice terraces, the smiles, felt the warmth, and I knew.
With that knowing, doors flew open. Synchronicities happened. I stepped back and the universe moved forward on my behalf. Within three months I was living there. That was five years ago. I’ve never once been lonely and my love affair with this island continues growing sweeter and more beautiful with age. Here I can be all of who I am. There is nothing more thrilling and fulfilling than that.
My daily yoga practice grew out of those living room classes. It’s a discipline that challenges me to listen to the wisdom of my body and align my thoughts with my life’s purpose. For women who are in a place of transition and unsure of the way ahead, yoga can help to focus the mind and bring clarity to unanswered questions.
Do you believe you can change your life after 60? Are you doing what you were put on this planet to do? Is happiness a fact of everyday life or an occasional surprise?
Tags Reinventing Yourself