Saturday, February 12, 2011

I’m Far Too Petrified to Retire!

I have lived beyond the magic age for full Social Security; and believe me, I’m not still working to save the system from going bankrupt! I’m realizing I am desperately fearful of leaving my day job and its regular paycheck and relying on a drastically reduced Social Security check and a retirement fund that may or may not stay solvent in this unpredictable, global, financial shakeup. In short, I struggle mightily with my concept of financial security.

But, that’s just one facet of my retirement planning dilemma. A few months ago, a wise friend suggested I develop a reasonable “flight plan” for retirement, giving myself plenty of time to prepare for take-off. I mentally stepped up to a long, long runway and within days, my left knee began to ache excruciatingly! It hurt when I walked; it hurt when I sat; it hurt when I lay in bed! I believe in the mind-body connection, so I saw this as a painful but curious physical signal that my mind was not ready to get on board.

To add insult to injury, I went on a lovely tour of Egypt in December 2010 (before the revolution) with 40 seniors, most of whom were retirees. I had an opportunity to ask many of them how they made the decision to retire. Their reasons were all over the grid: an accident that disabled the person; a spouse who retired and wanted the partner to do likewise; a work environment that became too onerous and restrictive; overall job weariness; family circumstances. Among these very nice tour mates I looked around, saw myself and started to feel my age—old! My knee was killing me and I painfully stood among my peers—retirement-aged adults.

I was trapped, a bit uncomfortable, and stubbornly trying to defy reality! I was forced to be real about my age and accept the joint pains that go with it! At my day job, I am among younger coworkers; I am old enough to be my supervisor’s mother! I’ve let myself identify with a younger generation. I can look at myself in the mirror and not see wrinkles—talk about delusions!

I am having my own life transition crisis! “Physician, heal thyself” (from Luke 4:23). I won’t give advice about something I have not personally experienced. This is my ethic and this difficult passage is my educational experience. Fortunately, it is tempered by a slowly blossoming reality that retirement from my day job is a gift, an incredible opportunity to express all those creative ideas I’ve been ignoring far too long. It can be a rebirth—and it will; that is my intention…with or without the knee pain!

Stay tuned.

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