I’m lucky. I retired from a community I loved when I was ready to with a basic monthly stipend. After 21 years at the University of Texas (thirteen managing the graduate program in the Sociology department) I can now grow a business that I already started developing. This gives me direction, an opportunity to explore new social networks and collaborations (skills that I honed in my former job and the part I liked best). Will I be as staunch an advocate for myself as I was for others? We’ll see. In the meantime, I am two weeks out and slowly unfolding in the immensity of space and time.
The day after I retired I was sitting on my back porch staring into a meadow of swaying, native grasses and tall clouds sailing a big, blue sky. I was facing north, in the direction of the university and felt I was in a vacuum, like a tree that had been uprooted. I imagined my mind’s projections into all the relationships and collaborations, the structure of the yearly cycle, as roots torn from the earth. I had a frantic last few weeks, but this feeling of being bone tired was heavy with a feeling of loss.
So much of our identity is framed by “What do you do?” Loss of income, status and relevance can follow quickly, and suddenly we are no one. While some cultures honor their elders, the good old USA values productivity, not wisdom. Extended family and friend networks help a lot; feeling useful is good at any age.
But why rush through an existential moment? The feeling that I’m a raft floating in an ocean of time will go away soon enough. I can let synchronicity be the current my raft will follow. That spirit animated my youth, led me down many light and penumbral paths, to dreams that would foreshadow events or people who offered advice or an opportunity. With intuition as my guide, I can once again become a pilgrim in search of the wholly spirit.
I had such a moment while visiting the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center the other day. Part of my plan is to encourage people of all ages to saunter, a reminder to see the beauty in the things that often go unnoticed. Clearly, it’s something I go on and on about, so no problem making this my mission. Connecting with the earth, resonating with the vibrancy of life in simple ways promotes well-being. Engage a child’s sense of discovery and let them lead the way. The fox boy I met on the trail agrees.
Synchronicity led me to the wildflower center, the first place I’ll volunteer. It was not my plan, just looking for a good place to walk in Southwest Austin. My camera and I are headed west in search of . . . ? Let’s see what Portland and the Oregon Coast will bring.