Trees and Me

treeIt’s now 21 months since I left my marriage of 54 1/2 years. Usually I write about the freedom and the pleasure in organizing my life to suit only me. That being so, it wouldn’t be fair to hold back on telling you about a strange sense of mourning in my belly. I don’t understand this queasy, uneasy feeling of loss. After all, the externals of my life are all in place. I’m doing exactly what I planned. Nobody else is responsible for my choices. I get to do pretty much anything I want. For example, I am now preparing to leave for a holiday in Arizona. I’ve always wanted to see that amazing part of our world. You’d expect me to feel totally elated, wouldn’t you?

Of course, we humans are a mix of emotional as well as rational responses to life. Rationally my life makes perfect sense. Why am I feeling this belly full of sadness? We feel what we feel and feelings aren’t necessarily rational.

I decided to take my issue into my morning Focusing time.

Dropping my awareness down inside my body I asked, “Everything’s just fine, isn’t it?” “NO!” screamed the answer. In the next Focusing step I asked my body how it felt physically about my predicament. Over the next few minutes, an image of a folded over, unbaked batch of bread dough appeared. I could feel it in my lower abdomen. (This is the sort of thing that happens in a Focusing session.) I stayed with it, concentrating on the felt sense of dough. The dough gave way to the physically felt image of a huge oak tree. In this visual image, the tree roots spread out solidly all through my belly. Then something awful began to happen.

A huge force started knocking over the tree. Its deep strong roots were being pulled right out of the ground. I felt the roots give way and the tree fall. I was left with upturned earth. I stayed with the image and the physical feeling until, at last, images of tiny little shoots emerged where the big tree’s roots had been. These seedlings were not oak leaves. Some other species, maybe a birch was trying to take advantage of the newly cleared territory.

I asked into my body what all this meant. The oak tree was clear to me. But what about those little shoots.

Oh, it’s about my post-retirement life.

Focusing guides us in how life should go forward. The message to me is clear. I need to plant new and different seeds in my life as a retired person. I’ll never again have a big tree with massive roots. I’m past that stage in my life. It won’t be a big tree, but I need to do what I can to grow some little saplings.

So, how do we move on to a new meaningful life after retirement? Libraries are full of guides for seniors. Many people talk of how much they enjoy these “golden years.” Maybe they didn’t love their jobs. Maybe their work meant only a paycheque. For me, I would no doubt be feeling the way I do today even if I’d stayed in Toronto. It’s not Kingston: it’s my sense of rootlessness when I’m not fully occupied with life beyond my personal concerns. I also know it’s a mistake to try to hang onto the old ways in this new developmental stage of aging. How do we find meaning and contentment when we’re finally free to do what we want?

What’s your experience with retirement? Do you share my rootlessness? Or are you having the best years of your life? I hope you’ll leave a comment below.

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