Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


                                         Episode 279 A Retired State of Mind

"The mind of a teenager" is a pretty common phrase. Usually this means that there is very little mind involved. Silly or naive decisions follow one after the other.  "Sounds like a business man, that's for sure". Another common phrase usually meaning profit and loss is the only thing that matters in life. Kindness, caring and sharing have nothing to do with the real world. "That's a college student speaking" usually means some sort of statement of either being without any money or referring to partying hard all night. It is impossible to know where the money for booze or drugs come from. What does it mean to be retired? Is there such a thing as a retired state of mind?

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

I'm trying to think if there really is a retired state of mind. My guess would be that there is something that is unifying among the retired. However, just like the teenager, business man and college student generalizations fail most of the time.

The opening statements about these three tend to be more of stereotypical descriptions rather  than accurate statements. They lie. And perhaps that is the way it is with all generalizations.

One thing I notice about most retired people I talk to is their enthusiasm for living. It seems to me like a certain exuberance emerges about whatever path they have chosen to take. As soon as I write that I can think of exceptions. People who wander around listlessly and seemingly aimless looking for direction and ambition. My experience puts this type of retiree in the minority.  There state of mind is frazzled and without base. Fortunately that is not the way it is with most of the retired people I know.

The retired state of mind that continual emerges in my path is the one of satisfaction, acceptance and enthusiasm. These people know what it is to smile; to enjoy a slow walk, a recreational bike ride or a game of cards. They take their time with their wine and dinners. They do not rush life.

These people do not suffer road rage. Blood pressure is controlled.  They drive slower than the speed limit if they think it is safer, saves gas or delivers a better view of the country side.

Politics still concerns them but they have lived through various incarnations of political saviors emerging and then fading away. They know that day follows day and that though change comes, it comes very slowly and patience is needed to see major improvements.

Retired minds know that individuals differ as greatly as the shape of snow flakes. They have learned to tolerate; to tolerate the different. I have met people who truly hate gays, drug users, religious fanatics, atheists, wall street business men or long haired protesters. Most of those haters were younger people. They have standards that are hardened by youthful ideals. They have read the books, listened to pure speech and feel a certainty towards the way life should be. Retired folks have read the same books and more, heard the same speeches and more, and have life experiences that adds a new dimension to their understanding. A retired state of mind tends to be more tolerant; tempered.

My mother was in her late sixties when she finally ceased to pass judgement on unmarried people having children, homosexuality, drug use, racial and ethnic differences and religious preferences. For three decades she sat by her kitchen window and looked out upon a green garden and a world that was quite different from the one she had always known. Her mind settled. Her judgements mellowed and broadened. Though rarely leaving the small midwestern town in which she lived she came  to have a more worldly view of life.

What brought about the change? Did retirement play a role? Perhaps. She had time to think. Children and grandchildren had scattered from coast to coast. They shared experiences with her through actions and  stories of their own lives. She loved her children and grandchildren and came to recognize the changing world and need for acceptance of all people. She recognized the difficulties that all people face no matter their individual differences. And with this clarity came a certain calmness, a kindness, a forgiveness. At a younger age she had talked about these in her church while hanging on to petty prejudices. It took lifetime experiences to bring an understanding and acceptance. Compassion came late but it did come.

I like to think those words describe the retired state of mind. Of course exceptions exist. But I like to think that learning doesn't stop with retirement but for the first time in our life we have the leisure to put it all together. What we learned as a teenager, a college student, a mature adult, a parent, and citizen intertwines and forges a strong yet pliable state of mind.We can afford the time to sit back and consider. When we do a retired state of mind emerges that gives us the most comprehensive picture of the world we will ever have.

This is Retirement Talk.

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