Friday, May 18, 2007

life before retirement ...

I've recently been given an opportunity to consider something I didn't think was possible for at least another 20 years - retirement. I did not recognize the opportunity as "retirement" until just last night but now it is starting to become clear that I may well be retiring from my current career and moving onto a new phase in my life. Weird huh.

So anyhow, in talking with a girlfriend (who is also considering retirement) she brought up the idea of becoming a goat farmer. At first I thought she was kidding but then we started discussing the goat cheese industry, the tie to the wine region, and the idea of taking that retirement dream and putting it into play before traditional retirement age.

Today, I received an article, from another friend, about an IT professional who after working for a "real jerk" decided to hang it up and become a painter.

"Originally I planned to do something like this when I retired, but I didn't want to wait that long. Who knows what could happen between now and then? If there's something you really want to do, do it now."

Could it be that the idea of living life each day should expand out to the 8 - 10 or 12 hours a day we spend trying to make money?

I've always said that life is short. Yet somehow, I was also willing to sign over approximately 9.5 years of my life. Sure, looking at it that way is dramatic. But what if someone said to you at the end of your life, I am going to give you 9.5 years to do with what ever you choose. And during those years you will be young, and healthy, and full of imagination. What decision would you make.

Retirement still seems like a scary option. But perhaps in discovering what it is that I want to do, I will discover a way to enjoy every minute of those 9.5 years today so that when they ask me at the end if I need them back, I can say no " I lived them the way I wanted the first time."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I am not pond scum ...

My high school reunion is coming up next month. I received the invitation last night and with the request to choose either chicken or beef was a questioner asking us to identify who we are today. The questions, not unlike those found on a social security form, gave me pause not for what they asked but for what they seemed to say about life and the past x many years.

Where do you live?
Does your family still live in the area?
Are you married and for how long?
Do you have kids, how many and how old?
Where have you traveled in the world?

And then this one ….

What is your biggest accomplishment?

At the same time I am pondering this question, my husband is working on the commencement speech to deliver to his high school alma mater. And, I wonder what really matters about life the day after graduation, 5 years down the road, 10 years 15 or even 20, that can be surmised in a commencement speech or answered on a reunion questioner.

There is a country song that says “sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” And I think that’s true. As I have come to discover, life does not provide a guarantee that the success or failure of today will result in future success or failure. Life, evolves and we either make the choice to evolve along with it or fight. Either way change occurs.

So, maybe that is the answer. My biggest accomplishment to date is evolution. I am not pond scum. I am also perhaps not a highly intelligent life form able to understand the wonders of the world. But somewhere in between I think I have been able to focus in on what really matters. And oddly enough I think it may come down to something our friend Flavius once said over beers at the Sloop. “Life is easy, you just do the right thing.”

Life is easy, be happy, enjoy each day, face challenges not with either fear or determination but with a calmness of breath and knowledge that “this to shall pass.” If it is sunny outside, don’t spend the day indoors. If there is warm bread on the table with butter, have a slice. Don’t not plant flowers because you have allergies, carry a Kleenex and celebrate the relief that a sneeze can bring. Lie in the grass and look up at the stars. Lie in the grass and pick out the animals, people and spaceships that fly by you in the clouds. Get a dog. Rejoice when said dog eats through your favorite sweater. She was truly happy while she was destroying it. Get on the ground with your children, things are really cool and interesting from their perspective. Do the right thing. If you have to think about it, or are trying to justify it, it is probably not the right thing. Decide here and now what you want your biggest accomplishment to be and then decide if that accomplishment will matter to anyone you love. If the answer is no, think about it some more.