Every big life change calls for creative reinvention. Aging is a beast. It’s also a privilege; too many friends died too young to have the chance. For many of us, retirement brings new freedom in how we spend our days, while new limitations constrain our choices. Time to reinvent.
First a couple of caveats. Loss is loss; grief is grief; pain is pain. I don’t for a minute suggest that living fully means constant happiness, or that people with clinical depression can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. One person’s path may not be another’s. That said, here’s what works for me just now.
Identify a passion or two, something that engrosses you so deeply the rest of the world goes away. A sphere deep enough there’s always more to learn, try out, plan, discover, and create. Mine is exploring history and unfamiliar places. One friend’s eyes light up when she talks about fostering puppies. For others it’s gardening, landscape painting, or campaigning to combat climate change.
Forget about balance, unless you’ve found a balance that already suits you. Otherwise, let all the routines and unavoidable nuisances fall into the background. Deal with the crap—computer crashes, raccoons in the attic—and then flip your mind back to your passion. Let it fill you with such joy and excitement there’s no space for anything else.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.