I retired from my job recently. Like so many people, I could not wait to devote myself to my writing, to sit in my garden, to travel around the world. I hadn't anticipated the panic and guilt I would feel, however. Creating a structure out of the years that stretched ahead of me seemed daunting. Whenever I met older people who were struggling financially, I felt mortified.
Work expands to fill the time available. So I sat in front of my computer contemplating "what ifs." What if I had done pure research instead of applied science? What if I had stayed in India instead of coming here?
Life felt like an anti-climax. All these years, I had been jealous of stay-at-home moms. Now I had time but my kids did not need me so much. I had always juggled the demands of my birth family with my own family. Now I could go to India any time but I had no parents left to visit. Was I to follow the teachings of Hinduism and become a hermit awaiting nirvana?
After a little time though, I began to change. I talked to the checkout clerk at the store. I said hello to strangers. I no longer yelled at the service rep from Comcast. I was becoming kinder and more patient. For the first time in my life, I had the space to look at myself.
So I began to reinvent myself. I made a film about people with learning disabilities. I signed up to volunteer. I painted watercolors. I realized how much time I had wasted looking at the past and the future, while the present moment had simply passed me by.