At 66, my mom is facing a tough decision – retirement. Her mind is still as sharp as it ever was but her body isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Most recently, she suffered another fracture in her spine. She’s been healing at home where she has had lots of time to think about retiring (or pray over it, as she likes to say).
For the past 3 years she has been semi-retired, working occasionally as an Assistant Clinical Manager for a large home health care service. For the 45 years preceding that, she was a nurse. She never wanted to be anything else. I believe my mom continued to work this long because she truly enjoys helping others. As I talked to her about it this morning, she said something that surprised me.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she started. “I’m perfectly content just to stay home all day, putter around the garden, take a nap, do a few chores, and work a puzzle. I just think there must be something wrong with me.”
“Why would you think something’s wrong with you?” I asked, expecting her to talk about her health.
“Because I might be up at 2 A.M. doing laundry and drinking coffee or I might just sit on the back step and watch the birds for hours. Everybody else around me is so busy. Their lives are crammed full of going places to do this and that. I spent my life being busy at work and I loved it but I don’t want retirement to be like that. I think I might be dull.”
“Dull??” I could hear my voice go up two octaves at the incredulousness of her statement. “You are not dull! You have a level of contentment that most people never achieve. These people around you, they are dull!” That’s what I wanted to scream but instead, I simply asked, “Are you happy?”
“I like to think so,” she replied.
“Then you’re anything but dull.”
For the past 26 years my mom has lived alone. She never had a gentleman friend after her last divorce (she married my dad twice). She never joined a bridge club, gardening club, wine club, or any other type of club. She didn’t need to. Her life is full in a different way. She reads novels about the South, studies Civil War history, makes bonfires just to watch them burn, takes stray cats to the vet, bakes vanilla wafer cookies just because Angie likes them, spends quality time with her family, and never fails to check in just to see if I’m okay.
Those people that my mom was comparing herself to, they all live cluttered lives. They are in a constant battle with the clock to find enough time to do all the things they think they need to do in order to be happy. And most of them never arrive there…at happiness.
My mom is already ten steps ahead of them.
When my mom says that she is content with her simple life, she is making the most accurate and yet the most understated declaration I’ve ever heard. My mom has conquered the one tenet of minimalism that I (and many others) struggle most with – the uncluttering of time.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom!!