Lately I’ve experienced a shift in my thinking, it has to do with life after kids and work. I have a feeling that my time at the YMCA has colored some of this thinking. I’m hanging out with an older generation and I find myself listening to their lives, anticipating what my own will be like when I reach their age. These ladies are dynamite! They exercise daily, they have children and grandchildren, they vote, they are social, active in their churches and they travel. One of my yoga friends is on a 17 day tour of Africa as I write, she’s been all over the world. I admire these ladies for what they’ve accomplished and for what they are doing in their later years. However….
I also see a side that I have no desire to emulate. Recently the YMCA decided to enforce a rule that you can’t pick up your card for a specific class until 15 minutes prior to the start of the class. These ladies are NEVER late, they are WAY early. To tell them they can’t have a card until 15 minutes prior to class is like telling them they should go home and come back. It means they can’t get the parking space they like, or they need to walk too quickly from the parking lot to the registration desk, or they might need to take a space in the class that isn’t their usual one. It’s startling how deeply they feel about the enforcement of this rule. When I tried to put a positive spin on it I was viciously attacked, which led me to my next thought…
I don’t EVER want my life to become so narrow that the rules at the YMCA can make me react in such a tired, old, cranky, rigid fashion. Which led me to another thought…what will my life be about over the next 10-15 years? What do I still need to do and what do I have to contribute? Work? Home? Volunteer? Any and all?
It’s been 15 months since I worked in retail and I really don’t miss it. The hours, holidays, weekends, heavy lifting, constant drive to do more with less…I’m relieved and liberated to be away from it. It was great while we needed it, got our girls through college, but I won’t be going back. The wisdom of the day says I should go back. I should be working as much as I can right now to build our portfolio so our retirement years will be lived on our terms. HA! As if life is ever lived on our terms! “Man plans and God laughs” is our experience and I can’t imagine it will change when we’re 70.
So what’s next? I’ve been asking that question all year. I’ve had time to accomplish a lot in 15 months. I cleaned out years of accumulation in the basement. Repurposed old furniture, (I like to think I’m channeling my grandpa). Tweaked the interior of the house to be more functional and attractive, maybe we’ll sell. Caught up on some reading. Revamped some of our eating/cooking habits. Exercised regularly (and not lost a pound). Joined a Bible study. Purged my closet of all those retailish outfits (things I only wore for work). Said good bye to one child and am preparing for the next one to leave. Finishing recovery from a car accident. And of course, I began writing. But what’s next? Is all this enough?
I know this much. I don’t want to occupy myself till retirement, simply so I can visit grandchildren and take trips until I die. That seems to be a common theme for the previous generation. Nope, not me. I’m also not a big shopper, can’t really muster the enthusiasm to spend my time that way. Instead, I find that I have a hunger to be of value to the next generation (whether they want me or not!) To speak in such a way they will hear, to be an example of Christian survival in a hostile world. I imagine myself so busy in the Kingdom, that my family has to leave me a message when they want to talk. I realize my life isn’t a perfect example of Christian living, mistakes and disobedience have cost me over the years. But what I’ve learned from those mistakes…priceless. So often, as a mother, I feel my value is diminished now that my daughters are launched. But lately I wonder if equipping the girls was just training for my next purpose.
We’ve been visiting a church lately, one that’s really working for us. We have to travel downtown (or the outskirts of downtown) but it’s worth it. The church is moving to a new building soon and they put out a call for helpers to make their children’s rooms creative, so we signed up for a Saturday morning shift. It was craft work, yarn, glue guns, tape, chicken wire and young adults. We had a ball. These young people were experiencing something precious in their church, we knew the feeling, we experienced it once also.They chatted about their lives, told stories about growing up, some gave testimonies of time in Teen Challenge . They were so appreciative! All we had to do was be ourselves, we loved it. It gave us a taste of what our future might hold.
The best part of helping was the shift in thinking that hit me. It came over me like a tornado. One minute I was thinking in terms of how I should contribute financially to our own lives, and the next minute I was thinking of how I could contribute eternally to theirs. It picked me up mentally from one place and set me down in an entirely different one. I felt like Dorothy in Oz. My brain had to take a nap from the instantaneous shift in thinking. Sometimes I revert to toddler-hood, including blankies and naps. If I start sucking my thumb it’s time to look into daycare.
As I said, current thinking is about accumulating wealth, so retirement will be secure, maybe even comfortable. Tornado thinking says “Retirement isn’t part of the Kingdom plan. It’s time to lose yourself for my sake”. It kind of takes the pressure off. It doesn’t mean I cash in my 401K or stop contributing but it does mean that I look at life with different eyes. It also recognizes that God is my provider, not myself. I don’t know about you but I need that kind of reminder often.
So as I approach this completely empty nest phase of life I’m asking the question…What next God? Where will you use me? It’s exciting, I’m impatient, I want it NOW (toddlers arise!). This craving won’t be satisfied until I find that place of being. Just please, don’t enforce any more rules at the YMCA, I know I’ll eventually cave and begin throwing tantrums…I’m learning from the best.