As part of doing research for the book I am writing, I have been reading the journals I wrote when we first moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1994. Those first couple years of our life in Ohio were not easy, and the ongoing theme in my journals is grief and loss and loneliness, but those years were also a time of re-evaluation and reflection for me. What was it I wanted to do with that next stage of my life?
I investigated all sorts of possibilities and walked a number of avenues, including freelance writing or going back to school and getting a theology degree. Eventually, I trained as a spiritual director, but that is another story.
Along the way I was motivated to write a mission statement for myself.
My purpose is to be a lifelong learner, to live life with
openness, with joy, with a spirit of tolerance, and to
share that attitude with others. My intention is to
express my love of God through my actions and
bearing, my being and my doing.
Over the years these statements could have been modified, but I think the general meaning still fits who I am and who I strive to be.
Within these statements is room for growth and change and for new interests and directions. The important thing, I think, is to be true to my essence--and to always be in search of that true self.
As we age, some of us have a hard time knowing our purpose, finding a direction, especially as our work lives end or decrease and as the roles we have worn for many years are set aside. What a perfect time to ask ourselves what is most important to us? What really matters? What within you is asking to see the light and breathe fresh air?
Marjory Zoet Bankson in her book Creative Aging, Rethinking Retirement and Non-Retirement in a Changing World refers to the years between 60 and 75 as a "generative period' or "post career creativity that seems to arise from a deeper spiritual stratum--a layer of soul compressed under the pile of ego expectations and responsibilities that come from work and family needs in an earlier career stage." p. 3. Bankson refers to a "spiral of call" in which we are called to consciousness and creativity with each transition.
Molly Strode refers to our "soul purpose" in Creating A Spiritual Retirement, A Guide to the Unseen Possibilities in Our Lives. Maria Harris calls this time "jubilee time" (Jubilee Time, Celebrating Women, Spirit, and the Advent of Age) and Richard Leider (Claiming Your Place at the Fire, Living the Second Half of Your Life) says "Elderhood is just another calling."
Here's another way to approach this time. Have you noticed all the shops springing up in which people have taken old furniture and have given it new life? That heavy china cabinet full of crystal that once dominated a formal dining room is now painted turquoise or chartreuse and holds kids' games and DVDs. A stiff wingback chair upholstered in brocade is now a riot of color and pattern. Perhaps we need to stand in front of ourselves and imagine what new color will boost us into vibrant energy? Or is there a way what has always been can become it own new thing? Can we re-purpose our view of ourselves and who we think we are, even if we think it is too late or we have done what we set out to accomplish and who cares anyway?
I now realize our years in Madison were sabbatical years for me, years of transition, a link between our life in Ohio and the full circle return home to Minnesota. A time-out in some ways, but now I realize I am not done. I have re-examined my purpose, listened for the whisper of a call, and now I am eagerly building a practice in spiritual direction here, along with facilitating an occasional retreat or teaching a class on topics related to spirituality. And I am finally devoting myself to writing the book that has been percolating for nearly twenty years. Now is the time.
I feel full of purpose and meaning. The particulars may change over time. I may need to update the upholstery or give my plans a fresh coat of paint yet again. I may revise the methods and the commitments, but this time is all about knowing God within myself and living that with others. Yup, I think my mission statement written in 1994 still fits.
What is most important to you right now? How can you live your life more fully and wholly right now? When you think about what has given you meaning in the past, how can that be re-purposed for your abilities and gifts right now? I would love to know, and if you choose to write a mission statement, would you be willing to share it?
Links to Resources
Marjory Zoet Bankson