Retirement, as defined by the dictionary: the state of being retired; withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life; the age at which one normally retires; a place of seclusion or privacy.
Many people I know are of two different minds: they either face retirement with happy anticipation and pleasure or they dread the inevitability of ending a chosen career to which they feel irreplaceable. I chose early retirement and approached it with happiness and some trepidation in that we were pulling up stakes and moving to a totally diferent environment. We had prepared for the move by spending vacations over many years in the country we were about to relocate to and understood the benefits and pitfalls. However, there are friends of mine who honestly believe that retirement is the “end” of their life in that they will have nothing meaningful to do or accomplish. They are, in some fashion, of the opinion that they are irreplaceable. I feel sorry for people in that position as everyone is replaceable. The only job I am not replaceable in is the position I hold for myself in my life. No one will ever be like me; no one will raise children in the exact same way I did nor have the same results. No one will act, think, work or behave as I do, exactly. As to the future and my activities while retired, well, I am here to say that I love being “retired.” But it is not the easy going, laid back, uncomplicated life living on an island that people seem to assume it is. It is rewarding, but in a different fashion than that of a job done in order to accomplish someone else’s goals.
I am here to say that life does continue after retirement. There will always be trials and tribulations, changes to one’s character and thinking and, after living in a third-world country, a complete bewilderment to the actions of the people of the adopted country. I cannot change the lives of the people here, at least on a grand scale, and I can only contribute slightly to their well being and hope that they will, some day, have the wherewithal to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make a life for themselves and their fellow countrymen more productive, healthful and rewarding.
I have learned in my many years on this Earth that one should always be in a state of open-mindness and be willing to learn. I have learned, although some people cannot see it or would be hesitant to agree, to be a little more patient, relax a little more, allow people their views, no matter how ignorant they may appear to be of the facts, and to be a little more tolerable of situations around me. I have grown partly due to my past education,and also as to what I have learned since. By advancing my learning in experiencing life among those different than myself, I have become, I would hope, a better person than I was before I retired.
I am a restless person, always on the go, always with a goal in mind. I was brought up with a strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility. Taking a break was not in my makeup. It was drilled into me that one must always be doing something whether it be work, a hobby or organizing; sitting, doing nothing was not tolerated well in my family. As everyone knows, I have a hard time sitting still and even at a dinner table (at least in my home), I’m always jumping up tending to things. While living on Guanaja I have learned to relax a little more, even to the point that I have taken a few naps!!! Life is slower here and, while being a little less stressful, there generally is no need to rush. At least the people of Honduras have a good thing going with this theory in mind. The mañana theory is a good one to inject into one’s daily life. Of course, in general, I feel that the people here take it to an extreme. But it does work and, in spite of the few frustrating moments one encounters, for the most part it is a more relaxed and healthy way to live.
Fortunately, as the saying goes, with age comes wisdom. I’m not a genius by any standard, but I have increased my knowledge considerably over the years and am now benefiting from my past learning. I have learned much from my foreign friends, had the opportunity to visit Europe and gain even more insight, and have managed to take on at least one language (other than English) with some success and know words in a second foreign language.
As an example, I learned to crochet when I was 20 years old. I was taught by a fellow worker, Marilyn Rosenquist. At the time it was just one person telling another what to do and explaining instructions and various stitches. I never questioned the why or wherefore of what I was doing; I simply accepted her direction and over time learned the basics. From there I branched on, training myself and, fortunately, having people to ask questions of when I had a problem. I did, indeed, learn from my mistakes. It was not until later in life that I finally learned why certain steps were being taken, how to branch out; how to change a pattern and to read patterns in different forms. I have a wonderful friend who has allowed me to teach her the art. However, she has a more analytical mind than I and questions each and every step in order to make it clear in her mind. While that works for her, and I compliment her on her inquisitiveness, I had found that, for me, it was easier to take directions without questioning, learning each step slowly and methodically which later gave me more awareness to what I was doing and, I feel more important, learning from my mistakes. But, each person has their own way and I’m just glad that I am at a level of ability which allows me the insight to manage any problems for I have reached no one to turn to here on the island when I have encounter a problem. I now know the stitches, can follow directions and have the capability of questioning instructions and changing them if necessary. This method has followed me in my every day activities and I am more comfortable with tasks ahead of me and less prone to failure - or, making huge mistakes. Do not think I do not make mistakes - I still make many, but not as drastic as in the past and I am more comfortable with what I do so that I can correct a situation with some degree of ease. I still get frustrated by my mistakes but am more willing to correct them with far more patience.
The other thing I have worked on, and am becoming more successful at, is patience! I have learned not to engage people who are ignorant of facts at hand and who refuse to take any documented fact into their consideration in order to base an opinion. It is useless to debate with people like that. I have also become more tolerant of people and their religion and beliefs. It is useless to discuss the apparent inconsistencies of religion with people who are strong in their faith to the ultimate position that they are unswerving in their beliefs. While I can admire them in some context, I find it foolish in other ways. For example, years ago, on the island, I heard one individual tell another that soon there would be no room in heaven as it was filling up fast. Now, how they could have reached that conclusion without actually visiting the place they were referring to was beyond me. I knew at the time it was not something I should put to them in the form of a question and, so, left them to their strange assumption. I stay away from politics as most people are, in general, firmly grounded in the politics they chose. I am a middle man; I will listen to intelligent and factual information brought before me and then make my decision after some research. My husband and I fortunately, for the most part, are of the same mind (except when it comes to guns and war) and can discuss the pros and cons of a subject and we can enlighten one another.
I have also expanded my patience and calmness by recently taking up Yoga. As I said, I am not a person who is prone to relaxing and, at times, it is very difficult for me. However, in Yoga one must focus on the exercises at hand and maintain a state of calm, otherwise you defeat the purpose. I have managed, in my one hour, three times a week, to calm my body, relax and breathe and be absorbed (to some degree) in what I am doing. It is not easy and I am still actively working on the premise of this art. It has been beneficial and I thoroughly enjoy the routine of Yoga, the strengthening of my mind and inner core and the calm that comes with the relaxation and breathing. Yoga has also taught me not to expect instant results and to take things slowly as constant practice and paticence will improve one’s technique.
I truly believe that retirement brought about most of the benefits I have spoken of. For me, living on the island has been one way to make the changes I have experienced. Someone recently asked one of my friends here why they chose to live on this island. He replied, “Look around you!.” That said it all. As he pointed out, one can hear the bees humming in the morning when you awake, the air is clean, the life is laid back, and nature is here to embrace you. While this is not the perfect place to live for everyone and can be frustrating at times, it is a beautiful, calm, inspiring place to end one’s life in. I hope that with good health and a sound body, my husband and I will be able to live out our lives here in the relative peace. If one or both of us should have to leave the island to return to the States to live, at least we will have experienced the beauty of a meaningful life.