In the early morning quiet, I felt I was free floating over my former life and the roles I had. And sadly aware of the loss of several cherished relationships. I saw my communities grow smaller as I drifted farther away. I had no moorings, no balance, no terra firma to stand on.
I wasn’t in a hot-air balloon—nor was I having a near death experience. It had been nearly a year since I had “officially retired” from my long career. I felt as though I’d untied the last of the ropes which had tethered me to the safety of the life I knew so well.
In retirement I lost much more than I had expected, but didn’t realize it initially. The first few months I kept busy with projects, some travel, and catching up with distant friends. I leisurely read the newspaper with my morning coffee, went on long runs and played more tennis. I was moderately content, although I felt unsettled, unfocused and struggled emotionally.
I was in my mid-sixties, yet mentally and physically felt much younger. This wasn’t my grandmother’s retirement or my mom’s. I knew I wasn’t done yet.
I returned to writing in my morning journal, as I’ve done throughout my life to sort things out. When I read back my words “I feel like I’m in a downward spiral”, they jarred me into actively redefining my life.
My life-changing event was retirement. For others it may be the end of a marriage, death of a spouse, moving to a new area, children leaving home, or any other major life transition.
What was once so familiar has now opened to broader perspectives, new interests, deeper friendships, and a renewed purpose. It’s taken me a few years of trial and error, and I hope that what I learned may give you some practical steps when you experience a major life change.
Here are five steps I took to regain my footing and led me to where I am today.
1. Mindfulness. This simply means being aware of where you are. Look around, be present, and notice your surroundings and your life here and how. Regardless of what has been lost or ended, you will notice there is still much remaining. There is beauty all around. Find the pockets of peace, of joy and of hope in every day. You will begin to feel, reconnect with the world, notice and appreciate your life in new ways. There are always choices, movement, and nothing stays the same.
2. Be curious. Ask questions to begin conversations with casual friends–the coffee barista, grocery checker, and neighbors. Invite someone you’d like to know better out for coffee or a walk. Take a class in something you’ve wanted to try but were too busy or too timid to start.
3. Find communities to share your interests. When I retired, I naturally dropped my professional business association memberships, and with them many business colleagues and social events. (Fortunately, several become personal friends.) I joined new groups to share my current interests, writing, running and tennis, and have made many new friends of all ages.
4. Take action. Get involved. The world needs your talents, whatever they may be. Volunteering my time on the board of a non-profit introduced me to several new people who were bright, community-minded and fun. Several became friends and I’m helping the community in meaningful ways.
5. Find a new passion. When our old life’s activities no longer fill our days, we need to find new things to do that give us meaning and the desire to get out of bed in the morning. Each of the steps above will ultimately lead you to a place of new passions, interests, and meaning.
My research, conversations, and fascination with women in midlife and beyond inspired me to write a book, present to groups of midlife women, and create interesting, inspiring content for my blogging community. Working with Nancy Burns to create Hourglass Workshops, we offer women’s workshops, and for years, we record short videos on our You-tube channel, Hourglass Conversations. These activities require learning, taking risks and getting out into the world, with a new purpose.
So, cast off and set sail…and see what’s up and beyond your horizon. This time of life is rich with possibilities. You may be as happily surprised as I am.