I remember starting to visit nursing homes regularly with my mother at about the age of four or five (something I've continued to do throughout my life). Even at that early age, I have memories of seeing people who were content and those who weren’t, even though I couldn’t yet articulate that. I remember growing into a curiosity about why that was. It didn't seem to correlate with what had gone on medically or each person's current physical abilities, nor was it seemingly about family connection. So what was and is the differentiator?
The gratefulness.org people recently posted a blog about the importance of befriending ourselves. It spoke to the importance of surrendering our constant goals and 'shoulds' and our need for accomplishment, and instead “turning toward ourselves and extending the gift of appreciation of who we are, exactly as we are. Imperfectly perfect”.
Isn’t that a wonderfully simple message? Stop striving to become, accomplish, get recognition. Stop feeling like we are coming up short or planning how much happier we will be if we just…fill in the blank.
I have been pondering how that relates to transitioning to and moving through our retirement chapter of life. We occupy ourselves finding things that keep us busy in retirement and seek to find our sense of worth now that there isn’t a job/career to fill our accomplishment and identity bucket. What a juicy chance retirement can be to really learn to befriend ourselves and see ourselves as being enough just as we are (if that hasn't happened earlier in life).
One thing I have gotten very clear about after interviewing folks about retirement is that our plans will change many times throughout this phase of life including changes in where we live, what we claim as our identity, physical abilities, changes in who we surround ourselves with, changes in family configurations and dynamics and/or loss of a spouse or partner, what we do for pastimes, and how we begin to think about time and our own mortality. We will reinvent our lives many times in retirement. Yet through it all, we consistently have ourselves to befriend as long as we draw breath. What a great gift to savor, if we let ourselves.
I hope this next chapter is packed with rich experiences and relationships for you. It's important to do the things that give us greater meaning and connection. And regardless of how that changes up, may we consistently befriend and accept ourselves with compassion in all our new forms.
Maybe that is what I picked up on in nursing homes, that internal grounding of being content with oneself. I will only know for sure by living it.
How are you befriending yourself?
Ruth Tongen helps people plan and live meaningful, fun and healthier retirements.