What is it that keeps me going?

What is it that keeps you going?

I’ve been asking that very question at my senior residence, “What is it that keeps you going?”CIMG0930-Eileen 2

  • Eileen tap dances, sews and crochets and knits
  • John collects stamps and creates trivits, helped by his magnifying glass.
  • Pauline relishes the remnants of her former button collection and gets up to dance anytime she hears a beat.
  • Doris and Marie welcome new arrivals and make them feel at home.
  • Joan lives for her grandchildren.
  • Jenn lives for her Red Sox team.

Eileen said, “I need a challenge!” when I found her one morning searching through sweater pattern magazines seeking an embellishment she hasn’t yet learned to do.

At 74, I need to keep learning! I like to bring good questions into new places and see what kind of worthwhile conversations ensue. I’m on a sincere quest to explore my current and fascinating stage of life, seeking my own answers to: “How shall I age?”

So I read, write, teach, and reflect about the challenges, the tasks, the losses, the elders extraordinaire, and the ways people find to stay engaged in the game of life…or not.

For me, having something to do which allows me to stay sane and present in the world is an absolute necessity.  As mature folks, we are way beyond the life consuming tasks of parenting and full time careers. So what now? How do we replace what kept us going in the past with something equally satisfying?   What are the needs we seek to fill?  What are the contributions we have yet to make?

A friend of mine, now 80, reflecting back on his 60’s, said it took him 3 – 4 years to emotionally transition from his consuming work as a college professor with the students and colleagues he so loved, to a “retirement” with apparently “nothing to do”. It took a long time for him to recreate daily habits, and find new purpose, new friendships, and, a new identity. Eventually his retirement became less of a “loss” and more of an opening to world travel.

Whether it be learning, challenge, finding humor, an income producing passion, volunteering one’s time, hobbies, travel, being part of a like minded social group, working on family geneology, whatever…some outside interest, or obsession,  seems to be a requirement for staying healthy and happy.  One of my brothers is conserving land on Cape Cod for future generations.  Another brother sang, played and taught guitar and was never without a band until the day he passed.  I assume he’s up there in heaven as lead singer of a folk group.  My neighbor John still goes to his Stamp Club meetings as long as someone will pick him up.

For me, I have fun recreating the courses I teach on topics I love, and remain open to surprises. Yesterday’s surprise was that the seed of an idea for Volume III of Musing wafted into my consciousness.    Last week, responding to new whisper from within, I signed up for a painting class.

For you, at whatever age, what has typically kept you going?

And if in your current transition, you happen to lose that one thing, with what will you replace it?

Do you dare open up the time and space in order to hear what’s calling to you?