next stage of life

When Do You Retire?


Since I’ve become so interested in The Next Stage, or the Third Stage, or what most call Retirement, friends and colleagues have begun sending me their thoughts, including the thoughts of their friends and colleagues. So the conversation is beginning to spread.

I want to share with you one of the most moving statements sent to me recently:

I was thinking about what I want when I finish working and retire and this is the list I made for myself:

1. Financial security

2. Wake every day with a purpose

3. Engage in meaningful work that helps my community

4. Be in good health

5. Have time for and enjoy family and friends

6. Do more of the things I love

And I suddenly realized I could retire today! As long as I have a job, I am financially secure. I wake every day with a sense of purpose and engage in meaningful work because I am privileged to work in a nonprofit that helps women and families escape domestic violence and family homelessness. I am fortunate to be in good health and have time for family and friends. While I do things I love, I recognize that I want to do more of the things I love so I started a list and consciously look for opportunities. And then it hit me: Retirement is a state of mind! So, I retired that day.


What a fantastic view of her life! And what a wonderful way to be mindful about her values and what’s most important to her. Why wait, indeed? If it’s a state of mind, she can have that today!

I’m so excited about that! It moves us so much closer to the goal of living mindfully and being conscious of the choices we can make. I was taught long ago that in the face of extreme stress, Step 1 is to identify what you can control and focus on that. One thing I’m doing to begin to plan and prepare for that stage is to create a community of others at the same stage – to brainstorm, cheer each other on, challenge each other’s assumptions, and provide a place to explore possibilities

What would you most want to have today? What do you want when you retire? And what could you do to bring more of that into your life RIGHT NOW? I’d love to hear your thoughts and expand the conversation. Feel free to add your comments.


The Organ Recital

My sister called the other day and after a 10-minute recitation of the challenges of recovering from a bad ankle-break that had required surgery, a friend’s mother’s demise at the age of 94 after a stroke, and the difficulty of avoiding acid reflux, she said, “Well, so much for the organ recital!”  “The what?” I replied. “You know,” she said. “The organ recital. The way we all begin conversations now that we’ve reached a certain age. Haven’t you noticed?”

And indeed, as I thought about it, many conversations now begin with the ways in which our bodies have clearly become more vulnerable. Little aches and pains grab our attention – especially when getting out of bed in the morning. When we take a few weeks off from exercising, it’s amazing how much ground we’ve lost. We’re going to bed earlier, or not sleeping as well. More of our friends are beginning to deal with serious illness.

And yet, we don’t feel old. According to my informal survey, most people I know in their 50’s and 60’s, when asked how old they feel, name a number somewhere in the early 40’s. We’re startled by the face or body reflected in the mirror. So some of the discussion comes from a sense of wonder:  look what’s actually happening to me! I can’t believe it!

For me, some of that sense of wonder led to thoughts about what the next stage of life would be like for me. The questions that came up were: What did I want? Where did I want to live? How did I want to be connected to people? What if – God forbid! – I should find myself suddenly without my husband and partner of 30+ years? What would my life be like? These are hard questions. Even thinking about them can feel overwhelming – or even a little grim.

And yet, there’s another side to the story. Choice is important – and there are so many things we have choice about as we get older, especially if we don’t wait until the choices are made for us by circumstance. It’s wonderful that we still feel like we’re somewhere in our mid-40’s. And how terrific to feel that way and still have put in so many years in a career that we are now eligible to “retire” and maybe make some different choices about our life. How fabulous to feel that young and have our children (for the most part) finished with school and launched into lives of their own. 

So what are the choices we can make now? Let’s look at some of the big ones:

1. What would I like the next 20 years of my life to look like? Do I want to be working and if so, how much of my time do I want to spend at it?
2. Where would I most like to live? Is climate important to me? Do I want to be in a particular kind of community?
3. How much money do I need on a monthly basis to live the way I’d like to live?
4. What will make my life feel meaningful? How do I want to make a contribution to others?
5. What kind of social environment do I want for myself? What friends are important to me and how will I make new friends?
6. What about the spiritual side of my life?

Having a vision – or the beginning of one – for the next stage of life is a way of beginning to build it. We can begin to plan, to try out new environments through traveling, to begin to volunteer. And that kind of planning, trying things on for size, is a great way of continuing to feel you are somewhere in your 40’s, still enthusiastic, still involved, still making active decisions about your own life.

And our bodies? Well, rather than the daily organ recital, I prefer the instructions of my yoga teacher, Tara, at the end of each class. After we arise from savasana, she always reminds us to “Thank your body.” It reminds me to be grateful for how well it has served me, despite the demands I’ve placed on it for so many years.

In the next few postings, we’ll go deeper into these questions about the next stage.  Stay tuned! And since humor is so important in continuing to feel youthful, here’s a little something to smile at…

 This picture can be found, and many others like it, at The artist is Terry Border and his creations are truly a wonder

(This picture can be found, and many others like it, at The artist is Terry Border and his creations are truly a wonder!)




This blog is about the many things that are important to me. I hope they will resonate with you as well. My dream is for it to be a conversation, with comments and additions by all of you who read what I – and my guests – write. I hope you will feel free to share your wisdom. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

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