The R-Word and You

A grande dame of British theatre, Judi Dench, spoke with Anderson Cooper just before the release of the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2012 making crystal clear she has no plans to rest on her laurels and retire. In another interview she remarks about retirement: “I just think you ought to go on if you got the energy. If you got the energy, then everything is possible. But I think if you give up, then nothing presents itself to you anymore.”

My definition of retirement fits hers precisely: This phase in life for me is a time to re-tool, re-tire as in “put on new tires and roll on.” After decades in the teaching world, I literally took off my graduation regalia for the last time and tried on other robes: I began taking “The Lowrey Magic Organ Course” with a group (ugh), had to re-take many of the unit “speaking” quizzes in Rosetta Stone French (ugh-ugh), took up sky-diving (okay, an exaggeration!). But I had lunch in the middle of the week with friends, reveled in grandmother-hood full tilt.

I still relish the grandmother role and I often have lunch mid-day with friends or a pedicure mid-week, but my writing life has taken over the hours I spent in the classroom and grading papers after-hours. Blogging/writing is my new calling, requiring both head and heart, what I missed most about teaching anyway.

Recently, at Mother’s house I picked up the July 2014 issue of PURPOSE, a Mennonite publication containing “stories of faith and promise,” similar to those offered in Guideposts magazine. Here are some choice bits, including one from a 20-something:

  • Katie Funk Wiebe, the grande dame of Mennonite Memoir in my opinion, writes in her essay Looking Back from the Mountaintop: “At age 89 I am standing on a mountaintop. Below me is my life journey: there I stumbled, there I found footholds, there the path took a hairpin turn into darkness, there I found light . . . .” Her conclusion? “There may still be a distance to climb.”
  • In her essay “From a Fire Escape,” Dorothy Beidler admits “I have more questions than answers and that is definitely okay with me. Later she urges, “Find your niche, your passion, your soul gift.” Even in retirement.
  • Former CEO and business owner Burton Buller notes the difficulty in relinquishing the idea of being in charge but now is being inspired by “a newfound sense of gratitude.”
  • Melodie Miller Davis ponders the name for her new phase with her title “Final Quarter, Final Third?” letting this time of her life reverberate with purpose and intention to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” or Kris Kristofferson’s lyrics “Bread for the body and song for the soul.”
  • Marian Durksen Wiens speaks of the richness of being reused and recycled as she and her husband return to volunteer in Korea, a land where they had previously worked.

Finally, a 20-something, Marcus Rempel, acknowledges that though dreams of a well-insured future lie “crumpled at [his] feet like a balled-up newspaper,” he values the safety network of family in this life and eternal life in the age to come.

The idea of retirement is a fairly new one. In the early twentieth century when life expectancy for men and women was in their 40s and 50s, retirement was practically unknown, certainly not seen as a sizable chunk of time. Now many men and women can expect to live 20-30 years beyond retirement age.

In the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the Judi Dench character, Evelyn Greenslade, supplies the narration “book-end to bookend . . . and keeps a blog of her activities” from the opening sequence to the Day 51 moral that ends the film ‘We get up in the morning, we do our best.'”

Old Remington typewriter from college days - 1960s
Old Remington typewriter from college days – 1960s

Like her, when I get up in the morning I aim to do my best, especially on days I can connect with my friends in the blog world.

Your aim – in the morning?

      In retirement? We value your thoughts!


36 thoughts on “The R-Word and You

  1. I love Judi Dench! (Just thought I’d mention that.:) )
    Like you, when I wake up each morning, I aim to do my best. Of course, I don’t always accomplish my goals–sometimes that’s good and sometimes not. Life happens.
    I don’t really have retirement plans, since I write from home. My husband is thinking of retiring soon though, and I’m encouraging him to come up with some plans–for my own sanity, as well as his! My mother’s father moved to Miami Beach when he retired, and then he learned to ballroom dance and paint. He “bathed” in the ocean every day, too.


    1. I just love that you wake up in the morning and check my posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays as I do yours but on a different day. Like Judi, we love not only the connection but the interaction as well with our blogging friends. Thanks once again thank you for being # 1 out of the gate this morning, Merril.

      You are wise to anticipate your husband’s retirement – mine has a portable office in “third places” around town, so he’s not under-foot. I like the story of your grand-father bathing in the ocean each day before or after the dancing and painting–what a life!


  2. I’ve been retired for five months and I’m BUSY! Still trying to get into the groove, a semi-regular routine, and to find a way to do everything I want to do. It’s a good problem to have. I remember my dad’s forced retirement due to health reasons many years ago and am reminded that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. I try to remain thankful for every day and every opportunity that presents. Great post, Marian!


    1. Gratitude is essential for happy living before and during retirement, as you well know. I agree with your implication: Finding a workable “structure” in retirement adds to the pleasure of the wild world of choices.


  3. Marian … I’ve been “retired” for five years now. Between writing and community activities, I’m not sure how I ever found time to “work”– where work is defined as time spent satisfying other people’s goals and objectives. I’m now contemplating retiring from retirement, so Kent and I can travel together while we still have our health. I’m not sure exactly how it will turn out or what our schedule will look like … but I loved working … I’ve loved retirement .. and I expect to love whatever post-retirement brings


    1. Your comment reminded me of Tennyson’s oft-quoted phrase: “I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees.” What a fascinating life you’ve led: developing your skills in the world of fiance, traveling the world by sailboard, writing two wonderful books, and now contemplating more travel. I would call that life with intentional purpose. Thanks for chiming in with your comment today, Mary.


  4. Marian – I’m a HUGE Judi Dench fan, and we loved “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Thank you for sharing the video clip of her with Anderson Cooper.

    My aim each and every morning?
    To live an inspired life, and in doing so, inspire others.

    My thoughts on retirement?
    Paid or not I will always write — always. And until I draw my last breath, I will never — ever! — retire from life.


    1. Of that I am SURE, Laurie. And you spread the joy and inspiration in buckets wherever you go, both literally and digitally. I’m so happy to be one of the beneficiaries of your joie de vive!


  5. I was 50 when I retired, Marian, with 30 years in education teaching high school English and speech. A dubious honor, but the math was correct. I started in education while still in college, subbing and teaching summer school, and for 5 of my 30 years in the classroom I taught at year-round schools, taking on extra quarters to pay for my master’s degree. It all added up to the 30 years by the time I was 50. I was also a freelance writer who’d taught Writing To Publish classes during the last fourteen years of teaching high school English.
    The first summer after I retired, I advertised four writing workshops, and I never advertised after that as my attendees were my word-of-mouth recommendations for workshops, private editing and teaching ongoing writing groups.
    My first two participants to send in their checks for the first workshop were the parents of students who’d taken my Writing To Publish class; they said they wanted to have the excitement and enthusiasm about writing that I’d taught their children. It was the best, most encouraging compliment I could have received. Everything has unfolded and blossomed from that first summer almost fourteen years ago.
    I didn’t retire to slow down, but to jump into the deep end of the writing I loved.
    And that’s my story. 🙂


    1. I love your fascinating story and so will my readers. You are living your dream and inspiring others to do the same. Obviously, there is no grass growing under your feet, as my mother used to say about ambitious women she knew. My favorite line from your comment: “I didn’t retire to slow down, but to jump into the deep end of the writing I loved.” I believe we are kindred spirits. Thank you, Marylin!


  6. What a lovely and relevant post, Marian! I never liked the “r” word for all it implies. When I retired in 2011 after 44 years as a nurse, I was able to concentrate on reinventing myself as a writer and it has been every bit as fascinating and adventuresome as my nursing career. I’d rather think of it as “transitioning” to another phase- one of living life on my own terms. I’m
    busier and happier than ever and I’ve only just begun! Thanks for a great post.


    1. I agree, Kathy. The word retirement often conjures up images of the staid and stodgy, which we are not!

      It’s hard to believe that you have published your fabulous memoir only 3 years after retirement. My mother used to say of go-getters: “You’ll have to get up real early in the morning to get ahead of her!” You go to the head of the class, Kathy. 🙂 Thanks for your encouraging, life-affirming words.


  7. I love Judi Dench and I have always enjoyed Guideposts, before and during retirement. I enjoyed your bulleted summaries of the Guidepost stories.

    Unexpectedly and certainly not solicited by me, a local university contacted me to take on another full time position within months of retiring. Plain and simple, I was not interested in working as hard as I had all the years going into my fourth decade of high school teaching, nevertheless I did find an adjunct position and then came consulting jobs. My family worries I work too hard, but I reply “I’m not working as hard nor will I ever work as hard as I did at XHS.” Teaching the “second time around” has filled me with gratitude for the opportunity. Consequently, I work with students with a much fresher approach…working smarter not harder, being careful to not take on layers of extra responsibilities. I relish each interaction not worrying how much time it will take to form the relationship. My longer drive gives me lots of planning time. And, I have tackled online teaching amazing myself that I can stay abreast of technology. Now our country place has presented a different kind of work…sweat, strength, endurance and the kind of tired that makes falling and staying asleep no problem.


    1. I can hear the gratitude in your voice as I read your comment. You say, Teaching the “second time around” has filled me with gratitude for the opportunity. Thus, your choice is intentional and not just to put in X-number of years of service. You teach with your head and your heart, of that I am sure, and you have the perfect balance in your schedule, it would seem: teaching and the country life.

      It’s great to see your smiling face on my blog posts again. I’m glad you had some time to changes your tires (!) and roll into a new venture, Georgette.


  8. We may retire from our labours but we never retire from our calling – to love people in Jesus’ name and to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind & strength. My hands may be idle one day but my heart never will be. 🙂


    1. Thank you for sharing your faith and your love for others in this comment, and on your own blog consistently every week. I’m glad that your holy calling doesn’t preclude wearing sassy boots, Jenn!


  9. Judi Dench’s outlook is a good fit with my own. In two years, I will retire from teaching. Like you, Marian, I will continue to “work” on my writing and other areas of interest. I do not plan to settle into a rocking chair and sit with my cats by the fireplace. First of all, I don’t have a rocking chair or a fireplace.

    I also love Katie Funk Wiebe’s perspective. “that there may still be a distance to climb.”


  10. What a fabulous and inspiring post. And kudos to you Marian for all your daring endeavours! The most beautiful aspect of being a writer is that we never have to retire.:)


  11. I am on the verge of “Retiring” from my career but certainly plan to write and travel more. Like Dame Judi Dench, I need people around me. I’m not a one woman show. I must admit I am a bit frightened of the prospect of not going into an office every day. I love that blogging keeps me connected to such amazing people.


    1. Connection – that’s the operative word! I never realized that my blog friends could inspire me to persevere just as much as my colleagues once did. I have a feeling you’ll just love retirement. You already have a path to pursue and expand upon. Thanks, Darlene.


  12. Retirement? What’s that? I’ll be 69 in September and feel like I just got started. Or some of me feels that way, but not when I look in the mirror. We have work to do, stories to tell, earned wisdom to share. The world needs us and we need the world. Thanks, Marian. I’m holding you in my heart today.


  13. As with all new seasons in our lives, we choose how we tackle them. I’m starting a new teaching position next week, and I aim to tackle it with gusto! 🙂


    1. The students at your new school have absolutely NO idea what a treat they are in for. I can hardly contain myself thinking about the new connections you will make among faculty, staff, and students – and the lasting impact you’ll have among those young people. More fodder for your blog, Traci!


  14. Retirement sounds like a great idea to me. Unfortunately, here in the UK, the goal posts are being moved further and further away and the retirement age increased. I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever reach it.


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