It is about entering a new phase in our life – retirement. Even though retirement might be reincarnated as “second career” or “post main career”, even though we might not be able to afford retirement or choose not to retire, there is still retirement – retirement from one phase of life into another, retirement from an endless future to a more limited one, from not having to pay attention to one’s body to being a little more tired, a little more scattered…… Maybe we should not call it retirement, maybe we should call it graduation from one phase to another or maturing into another phase of life.
Anita Kline, retired as social worker and reincarnated as poet, Buddhist Practitioner and as somebody who has time to give if needed, shared at the last AHWGO session her own path into retirement, her expectations and what has evolved five years into it. Anita Kline talked about the “pillars” of this new phase in her life, her spiritual practice, her writing, her relations, her home.
Of course this phase of life looks different for everybody, depending on the work one did, the financial means one has, the context of one’s life and of course one’s personality. If one is lucky then this can become a time – when one can broaden one’s world with no thought given to any career goal – just for pleasure. On the other hand there are grandparents who raise their children’s children or for whom financial stress overshadows everything. Then of course there are people who cannot reincarnate themselves in this phase of life who are stuck in their old life and suffer from emptiness.
For all of us though at one point there comes a time when we become “aliens” – as Donald Hall so wonderfully wrote in his recent piece in the New Yorker. We are not recognized any more as who we are but treated based on our aged look and frailty as “separate life forms”.
“YOYO” – Young Old, Young Old – , Jeremy Myerson, the director of the Helen Hamlyn Center of the Royal College of the Arts who uses this term – describes that getting old does not mean that one does not have moments when one does something young – it is part of who we are – we feel it but others often do not see it. An understanding of YOYO would affect design and social relations for the elder. A design for a nursing home would allow for these moments of “young” – of course not in infantilizing older adults but by giving full design fantasy to the task .
Anita Kline YOYOness is reflected in this excerpt of one of her poems,
“Warm fingers can
coax cold curls
pull lightly against
loosening a handful of leaves
back toward earth. (from ‘When You Want Chard And You Get Kale”, by Anita Kline, March 2010)