“For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself in another dress
And as the evening fades away
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Retirement has been, for me, a release from the minutae and stress of my working life, where everything was geared to moving upwards as well as forwards. Now, in the Indian summer of my years I finally have plenty of time to write, travel, learn new skills, do voluntary work – or do nothing at all if I so please. Gone are the constraints of trying to support children on a single salary, and the feeling that I have to be mother and father to them. Gone, too, the desperate need to please my bosses, go on courses, get more qualifications, get promotion. Finally, I’m my own boss and I love it.
Getting older has lots and lots of positives that more than counteract the negatives of a body winding down, eyesight and hearing slowly deteriorating, memory failing a little more, illness. Now I understand more fully the importance of time, relationships, compassion, honesty and have re-discovered the mystery and excitement of a life lived less frantic, less geared towards others. Now there is time to appreciate the beautiful call of a blackbird, a sunset, a frosty morning. It seems to me that whatever is taken in life is replaced by something else, something just as precious.
I came across a saying quite a few years ago, that is similar to the quote above. It is:
“Don’t cry when the sun goes down, your tears will prevent you seeing the beauty of the stars”.
I can’t remember who said it but I’ve hung onto it and been comforted by it in times of darkness. We all need to have mystery in our lives, something we don’t understand fully but can believe in, because life is rough at times and sometimes it scours you to the very bone. But the indomitable human spirit that shines out from people who have gone before is bright enough to light our way. We don’t dim with age, we glow brighter, and it’s the sweetest, most mysterious stage of our journey.