Old, Fresh, and Green

Here it is, year 3.5 and I am still not sure I have this thing figured out.

The “thing” to which I refer is, of course, retirement.

OK. I’m not dumb. I know what the word itself means… even without consulting the Oxford American Dictionary. (Which, by the way, defines retirement as, “… the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.”)

It is more the case that I am not sure what retirement means for ME.

I can describe all the negative elements of retirement pretty well. It means I no longer have a bi-weekly paycheck. It means I am no longer governed by a prescribed set of daily duties and obligations. It means I no longer have a staff to supervise, mediate with, counsel, encourage, play with, or evaluate. It means I no longer have a set of overlords demanding a regular accounting of my efforts. 

It also means I am no longer restricted to evenings and weekends for doing my grocery shopping, movie watching, lawn mowing, or television viewing. 

As I said, the “no longers” are the easy questions to answer. I’m pretty clear about the things retirement has put to an end. 

Where I struggle is to accurately name what is now BEGINNING here in my new retired status.

In a very real sense, this feels like a revisiting of the LIFE’S PURPOSE question I spent so much time grappling with in my youth. 

In today’s world, where many of us are making the change from receiving a paycheck to receiving pension and/or social security payments, I suspect I am not the only one asking this question. Thanks to improved healthcare, exercise, and better diets, many of us old farts still have lots of vim and vigor in us as we exit the workforce. Our minds are clear and need to stay active. Our hearts still beat with abundant energy. Our knees, hips, and elbows creak, groan, and ache a little more, but we can still get around (somewhat) with those young punks. 

We are not at all ready to be put out to pasture. And since some of us (speaking for myself only) absolutely DESPISE the game of golf, it means we enter this time ready to shift gears and explore new byways rather than pulling off into a permanent REST AREA by the side of life’s road.

I certainly don’t lack for things to do. Now that I am back at it, writing this blog is one of those things. I volunteer at three different places. I am spending more time with my guitar and now – thanks to a lovely Christmas gift from Joan – am trying to learn the harmonica, too. Traveling has picked up significantly in retirement. In fact, I am writing you now from a lovely VRBO condo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (From where, later today, we will be heading up the Baja coast to the picturesque seaside town of Todos Santos.)

I’d love to spend more time with the grandkids, but we are a nine-hour drive away from three of them and a 16-hour drive away from the other five. (Our fault entirely, by the way. We are the ones who chose to move to Colorado). 

No. Filling the hours of each day is not my concern. The question I continue to wrestle with is the musical question Dionne Warwick sang to Michael Caine when she crooned, “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

And unfortunately (or more accurately, fortunately), I know my bible. I know God can continue to use people looooong after they have qualified for AARP membership. 

Case in point: Abraham. Case in point: Moses. Case in point: Noah. Case in point: many, many others throughout the Old and New Testaments. I have read enough of these stories to know that I am not done until God says I am done.  

Despite all the angst on display here, I’ll admit it; I am really enjoying this new chapter. I enjoy the lack of deadlines, the senior discounts, the mid-day naps, the mall walks, the mis-matched clothes, the matinee movies, and the occasional Sunday sleep-ins.

Against that cultural backdrop, it is my sincere prayer that I might realize the promise God made to the righteous ones of King David’s time when he spoke through the psalmist and described them this way, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…” (Psalm 92:14, NRSVU)

Abundant blessings;

8 Responses to “Old, Fresh, and Green”

  1. May 9, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    Russell, first, have fun in Cabo! Yay! I admit I’m peanut butter and jealous. I enjoyed how you reminded retirees of how God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and so many more (and US!) still uses us no matter the age. I left one career at a very young age. I’m still a young punk! And I’ve loved all the career opportunities I’ve had! Admittedly, I don’t want to be in management anymore. I struggle at times finding my “purpose”. Yesterday, after several “dark” days last week, my twin drove me to my former home area near Branson to remind me of where I “left off” before cancer struck nearly one year ago (I’ve had much time for reflection). Right now I’m giving myself grace as God heals me. Like you, I want to be a regular blogger, volunteer, and to make more money, I’m going to house and pet sit. This darn cancer gets in the way! Tonight I’ll have an MRI to check my back to see if the tumors are pressing on the nerves and causing pain. I want to live to a ripe old age and retire AGAIN! Yay to the harmonica and I absolutely love music and learning new things. It sounds like retirement is doing great on you, Russell! Both of you! I do wish to travel more, but that’s not in the “cards” at this juncture. May God continue to bless you both and keep you safe! I had seen, during some recent health struggles, that you both celebrated an anniversary! Happy belated anniversary! I always enjoy your words and wisdom!

    • May 9, 2023 at 8:29 pm

      I had a butchers at your comment, but ‘peanut butter’ threw me. Is it Cockney rhyming slang? If it is, I can’t figure out what it means. I get: ‘whistle’ = ‘whistle and flute’ = ‘suit’, ‘apples’ = ‘apples and pears’= ‘stairs’, and – my favourite, as it’s a double, and recursive – ‘Aris’ = ‘Aristotle’ = ‘bottle and glass’ = ‘arse’ 🙂

      Oh, and ‘butcher’s’ = ‘butcher’s hook’ = ‘look’ 😉

      • May 10, 2023 at 3:38 pm

        Wow! Cockney rhyming slang sounds like a science, accessible only to those in the know. I will depend on you to translate for me in the future. (By the way, what would the word for “future” be in CRS?) I think when Karla used the word “peanut butter” she was just coming up with a cute way to say “jealous” by combining it with peanut butter to make it sound like peanut butter and jelly. Although I believe Brits would use the word “jam” vs. “jelly” as the name of the other thing that goes on a piece of bread.

      • May 10, 2023 at 4:29 pm

        Ah, yes: jelly/ jam, sidewalk/ pavement, ass/ arse, trunk/ boot, truck/ lorry etc, etc… two English-speaking societies divided by a common tongue. Another prime example of phlyarology in action! 😀

    • May 10, 2023 at 1:57 am

      Thank you for chiming in with your words of hope and encouragement, Karla. You are a shining example of persistence and abiding faith that God will guide and prompt you in the direction God intends you to go. Keep serving and keep hoping. You always shine much needed light on my confusing times.

      • May 10, 2023 at 7:41 am

        Thanks Russell. When I worked the questions that I answered were set out each day, defined by the day’s work, the people I met, the tasks that were required. Today in retirement the questions about meaning, purpose and value are broader and deeper. I’m learning to be content with increasing age, deeper faith, partially answered questions and regular confusion.

      • May 10, 2023 at 11:13 am

        It’s my pleasure, Russell! I am always happy when I’m able to “read” you! I feel that same way about you. You give wisdom, insight, and encouragement! There are so many moments of doubt that creep in and I’m so happy when God places his people in just the right places at the right times!

  2. May 10, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    Perhaps even retirement will add more than one chapter to our life stories. I know one police chief who became an assistant pastor and then a chaplain to a police force. It’s easy to see how God took the first two careers and brought them together for the third. In any events, Russell, it sounds like you’re using your time productively, what with this blog and your volunteer work. In between, you’re available should other needs arise! And who knows what chapter two or three or more of retirement might hold for you!

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