Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Because I Can

An email from a friend one morning this week said she was still in her jams and reading "because I can and want to to be." Another friend, newly retired, said she intends to spend her days painting because she can. My husband and I spent a weekday afternoon with friends roaming river towns and enjoying the beauties of fall because we could. This morning I turned off my alarm and slept another 45 minutes because I can. 

What an interesting time of life--to so often be able to choose what you want to do, instead of doing what you have to do, need to do. Obviously, there are still things that are more on the side of have to do and need to do, for that is life, that is the way being an adult is, but aren't you delighted to discover all the choices you have now as your life becomes more spacious? Yes, I hear retired people say, almost gleefully, how busy they are, busier than they have ever been, but it seems to me it is a different kind of busy. Now the choices are made based more on passion and interest and a desire to connect or grow or give than on responsibility and survival. Or at least there is the potential for that to be the case. 

When talking about being retired I often hear the word "liberating." "I feel liberated," someone will say, especially if retirement has been a choice rather than forced in some way. To feel liberated, instead of lost, however, requires being awake to oneself and the present moment. 

As I often do, I turn to Joan Chittister's book, The Gift of Years, Growing Older Gracefully.

      We find ourselves at the greatest moment of choice we've ever had, at least since we left home on our own, since we identified what we wanted to do in life, since we made the great career move, since we decided, finally, to settle down. Now we have to decide how to live without being told how it's done.
    The slate is clean. The days are ours. The task now is to learn how to live again. p. 28

     The truth is that this new stage of life liberates in a way no other stage of growth can possibly do. All the striving is over now. We don't have to have the way we spend our time approved anymore. We don't have to work, produce, or get ahead anymore. The only thing required of us now is the blooming of the self. Like autumn flowers, rich in color, deep in tone, sturdy in the wind, our lives, not only have new color, they bring with them the kind of interior depth a fast-moving world so dearly needs.
      If we decide that life is over once the accoutrements of middle age are over--the career, the title, the children, the climb up the social ladder--and that there is nothing else worth doing, that the very definition of who we are has been summarily foreclosed, then if course it will be. We have ended ourselves.
       But if we can bring ourselves to strike out now to try on the rest of ourselves, there is a whole new world ahead of us. Parts of ourselves that have been so carefully hidden from others during all the years of responsibility and productivity--and just as often as not hidden from ourselves as well--are now ours for the trying.
       And it is the willingness, the eagerness to try, that makes all the difference. pp. 46-47

      This may, in fact, be the first moment in our lives when we are really free to choose work that brings out the best in us and so brings out the best in the world around us. We become co-creators of the world." p. 151

I am still in my pajamas as I write this post and once I publish it, I may decide to fix a cup of hot chocolate and sit in my favorite chair and read the book I started last night or I may get dressed  and take a walk, a walking meditation, or I may choose to work on the assignments for the writing class I am taking. These are "because I can" moments. They lift me, make me smile, and often restore me, but they can also stretch my imagination and spirit and lead me to a more profound "because I can" opening in my life.  

An Invitation
What are you currently doing because you can? Are you living your life more from a perspective of because you can or because you don't want to? Do you know the difference? I would love to know. 


  1. Although some tell me that "you're not really retired," you are working again, I disagree just because of your post, Nancy. I have chosen to work again - parttime, at a new place "because I can." Yes, it is work, but it is the best part of the former career that I had. It's a job - in that I have responsibilities to many. BUT, it is what I loved doing the most in my former career. AND the remainder of the week - 5 days - I am easily filling in the calendar with things I desire, love and enjoy equally as well. A part of me is once more alive - I missed that part of me. So thank you for reminding me that in this 'spacious' time of our lives, I have chosen to take on a responsiblity, because I also believe I am 'giving' to others this way and it's not for a need as in survivial, but rather because teaching is something I'm passionate about.

    1. Isn't it wonderful all the forms "because I can" can take and all the ways we can choose to live our retirement? Bravo to you!


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