Chapter 71 - The Challenges of Retirement - Strength for the Journey
The average individual, pre-retirement, is (thankfully, for their own peace of mind) unaware of just how much time, and therefore Life, they are wasting on a daily basis. Once one enters the realm of retirement, early or otherwise, this situation becomes blaringly obvious. Suddenly, one has all the time on their hands that they once longed for, free of outside obligations, for good or ill. We as a society are not well-prepared for this sort of life. Habits formed in the 'free time' of the word-a-day schedule often carryover. At best, cultivated hobbies (if any) enter center stage. As an aside, women more than men tend to thrive in this season of life & environment, frankly for the reason that men have made an art form of wasting time in selfish leisure, with 'free time' rarely spent pursuing anything of real Value to the world or even one's self. Exceptions exist, of course, but 'work hard, play hard' is well-spread for a reason.
Retirement, and its spare time, where one is so often unaccompanied, makes it incredibly difficult to avoid bumping into one's self constantly, unless one dedicates to all manner of avoidance & escape mechanisms, precisely the popular course of action. The potential for the retired individual to self-actualize is higher, yet likewise the potential to turn into a useless, somewhat jaded, partying bastard. Unfortunately, social norms encourage us down the latter slide into various 'devil's playgrounds', if you will. Leadership in this phase of life is highly desirable, given the great capacity to lose one's self to habitual sloth or trouble-maker-y. Complaining and/or partying as a lifestyle is soon found (by the more observant) to be unsatisfying, however the generally accepted belief is that True satisfaction will never be found anyway, so might as well "party on, dude!"
Nature's choice: 'Grow or Die'.. death is often the selection. Inner development was traditionally the sedate work of the pensioner, not entirely due to physical limitations, but in retrospect perhaps this factor assisted. Parents grew into grandparents, sharing wisdom as distilled from life experience with younger generations. We live in a brave new world where we have turned tradition on its head. In many ways, this is excellent progress, however: baby, meet bathwater. Deleting traditions without adequately replacing their functions has been rather a disaster for our society. Cultural vacuums inevitably lead to living inside 'ticky-tack boxes' full of art that we either acquired on a clearance sale or paid good money for to stare at and wonder if it really means anything at all (it usually doesn't).
We have no need to revive the overhyped 'glories' of long-past eras, with their social stratas, widespread discrimination and outright bloodshed. The wholesomeness of the dead & dying is lost in the examination, as evidenced by the interviewing of so many grannies, with their blatant & unrepentant racism, for example. A cultural vacuum remains as aging generations (note: no on generation is any 'better off' than another) seek the unexperienced and 'missed' pleasures of their youthful dreams. We tend to get older in years now with little of substance to show for this period... again with the time wasting.
Cultural Leadership, traditionally the mantle of the retired, as I mentioned, lies in an abysmal state. We no longer even enjoy the quieter & calmer (creative) pastimes of 'old age'. Why? We do not wish to grow, because we do not want to have to face ourselves, because we have spent years of time following the demands of Fear, while neglecting to develop true Courage. This situation is a great liability, ever growing as times passes. Habits of inner cowardice carry us on currents of mediocrity, until we finally die in a slow painful decline or in the fires of foolhardiness, leaving little behind than ashes as warning to others in our wake.
Perhaps, just maybe, there is a way to give life meaning.
Growth. We must embrace it.