The two of us sit at a long table in the dining room of a flat-roofed house that juts out from the steep slope at the southern end of Skaneateles Lake. Aside from the gentle lapping of the waves, an occasional acorn dropping on the roof, or the crunch of one of our cats eating, it is silent.
The glass that wraps around the front and sides of the building gives us a 180-degree view of the Finger Lake we spend a week living beside every fall. When we pause in our work we take a moment to look out at the iridescent blue-green water before returning to our respective laptops where I am writing a memoir and my husband is composing music.
He sits across from me wearing a headset and listening to a piece he is arranging for a mixed quintet of classical and jazz players. He nods in time to music I can not hear, mutters to himself when things aren’t going well, smiles when they are.
On the other side of the table, I sit with a clipboard of notes on random scraps of paper, the raw material I collect for new pieces when I don’t have time to sit down and write. In the past year, I’ve been successful at feeding my writing practice in this way because it allows me to play with an idea before I decide to make it into a project I have to work on and complete. In other words, it lets me ease in.
We are both exactly where we want to be doing exactly what we want to do.
The idea of being invested in the here and now also happens to fit my ideal vision of retirement and has given me a better word for what I’m now doing at the age of 70.
As I reflect on this sentence, it feels as if this phase of my life is taking shape as gently as the water below us changes from a darker to a lighter shade of gray as clouds pass overhead. My sense of calm centered-ness comes from practicing what I preach as a career professional—the alignment of oneself with the work one is called to do.
There have been periods of turbulence to get to this point. Giving myself permission to do what I wanted to do has required accepting that everything new emerges from the ending of something old and there is a period of wrestling with the zigzag back and forth between what has been and what is to be before you arrive at a place where you are certain where you want to put your time and energy.
I see a sign that we have arrived in a choice we made a few months ago. After several false starts at putting together a trip to Europe, we realized that it wasn’t happening because we were both so “invested in” what we were doing we didn’t need the stimulation of European travel. The decision to put Europe on hold came very quietly, without the extensive discussion we’d engaged in trying to make the trip happen.
The idea of being invested in the here and now also happens to fit my ideal vision of retirement and has given me a better word for what I’m now doing at the age of 70. I refer to this stage of my professional life not as retirement but re-engagement, replacing the “tire” because it fits neither how I see myself, nor the way I choose to live.