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Claire N. Barnes, MA Headshot

Inspirement

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Since easing out of my position as Executive Director of a nonprofit organization, I have been extremely reluctant to apply the term 'retirement' to my new life status. I am one of those people who found the end of my full-time work life rushing toward me, rather than me rushing to embrace it. If you are one of those very lucky people who has the financial wherewithal to ease into a well-planned and well-funded retirement, you might want to stop reading here. But if you are one of the majority of us who thought we would work until we dropped, perhaps my experience over the last five months will resonate with you.

First, I have been terribly reluctant to use the term 'retirement' to describe my new life phase. I thought retirement was for old people. I am not old. In fact, the newly nominated head of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellin, is older than I am. (Well done Janet!) I pondered this dilemma with a friend, External Affairs Director for the San Francisco Symphony, Nan Keeton. After our chat, Nan sent me a friendly email suggesting a new name for this life experience is 'inspirement'. I thank and credit Nan for the idea, and henceforth, I now refer to myself as living my inspirement. As such, I am taking all the energy I historically committed to helping others and now directing it to improve circumstances for my family and myself.

It was apparent early on my husband and I were becoming out of sync with one another. He works in civil service and is slightly younger than I. He would charge out the door each morning to tackle civic challenges, while I lounged around looking for something to do (more about that later). It was apparent we needed to set a mutually agreeable retirement goal for him so he didn't resent my newfound leisure and I didn't resent his ongoing ability to earn a six-figure salary.

In August, we celebrated our 17th anniversary by taking a day trip to the beach overlook where we were married and spent that day planning, figuring, budgeting and projecting when he can step aside from his current position. The goal we set is twelve to fifteen months away, and making that decision together has really helped us enthusiastically embrace a future to which we can mutually commit. We now both know there is an end game and can focus our energy on the short-term projects to get us there. Skills I previously applied to the benefit of a nonprofit agency, are now part of my new J.O.B. -- planning budgets and activities for our future. This includes learning how to live with a budget where my income is reduced by 60%.

Importantly, the plans for the future include downsizing and relocating in order to manage on a fixed income. Preparing for a move and emotionally saying good-bye to a community we love (San Francisco), is now part of inspirement. A close friend is experiencing something similar. She will soon move out of a beautiful condominium with an expansive view of the San Francisco Bay. When I asked how she's managing (emotionally), she said: 'I've had this view for seventeen years; now it will be someone else's turn to enjoy it.' I am impressed by her healthy attitude.

While sitting in front of a computer five days per week for the last twenty years, it will come as no surprise I didn't make time for an active exercise regime. I had all the excuses -- too busy, too tired, low energy, too distracted, too much stress and so on. That has now changed. Thanks to an inspirement mentor, I have joined the local YMCA and am attending water aerobics at least three times each week. No one is more surprised than I at this commitment of time and energy, but the effort is long overdue. And it is interesting I have returned to a setting (a swimming pool) that was a significant part of the first twenty years of my life. Redirecting energy which was expended for others to improve my own well-being is an important part of this transition process.

As important as the physical well-being is the brain activity. Previously, the application of my intellect was singularly focused to address a huge societal problem affecting children in our country. I am now stimulating my intellect by seeking out Lifelong Learning environments where there are affordable classes for people to study, discuss, question, express and challenge ideas outside of former professional settings. I love being a student again especially where there is NO PRESSURE! All I have to do is show up and participate as much or as little as I want.

And finally, getting used to a flexible schedule with limited commitments has been challenging. After leaving a job which was beyond full-time (including middle-of-the-night wakefulness and obsessive attention to email and texts during off hours), creating new habits has been challenging. I do hope to eventually find part-time work because I know my skills can still contribute to my community. In the meantime, un-obligated time does occasionally weigh heavily. As a dear friend -- also in inspirement -- told me: 'I just sit with the empty space and experience it. I let it pass through me. I know something will come along eventually to help me fill it.' My friend is a wise woman.

So there you have it -- affordable, accessible ways to transition to a new phase of life. Most of us boomers will face realities of time on our hands, reduced incomes and a vacuum for where to apply our fully developed skills. I hope others will comment on this blog and share how you are handling your inspirement.

This blog was first published at www.myfavoriteteachersf.com.

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