Recently I spoke to a friend who is planning to retire next year and is busy pondering what life after work could possibly look like. I envy her because she is in a position to prepare herself for what is going to happen. When I lost my job as full-time mum, I never saw it coming. Redundancy is “the state of being not or no longer needed or useful” and boy did I feel totally redundant. We spend most of our adult lives devoting our time to our work and / or our families and when our services are no longer required, our sense of self worth goes out the window. I spent many hours ranting and railing at the cards I had been dealt. And the question I asked myself over and over again was, “how the hell did I end up here?” It all seemed so very unfair.
But, with hindsight, I can now see that “retirement” is not only inevitable but it is also an invaluable opportunity to rediscover and reinvent oneself, if you can find it in yourself to do so. I would urge anyone going through this stage in their lives not to panic and to just go with the flow, trust me! Eventually you start to give up on the old life and become aware of the new one. Slowly but surely, after the initial angst, you start to find your way back to yourself and the possibilities that are now available to you.
One of which is the time to read poetry. This poem seems to sum up, quite beautifully, the process of rediscovery.
LOVE AFTER LOVE
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.