Sunday, May 13, 2012

lay my burden down

Like a house cat, belly to the grass, inching up on a nearby robin, my neighbor Joe is creeping up on the ramifications and requirements of retiring.

Joe is something like 60, a genial Christian who, as far as I have been able to ascertain, designs high-tech military garments. Joe smiles a lot and has been to Africa on church tours -- helping those in need to get fresh water and build decent accommodations and construct school houses. But the very decency he honestly loves and embraces costs money to implement. So retiring has ramifications that are both material and mental.

Chatting about this across the street yesterday, I tried to ease his mind. For those like us who have worked their whole lives, who have taken responsibility and invested a belief in working, retirement is a bit of a jolt, I said. It takes some getting used to. Never mind the bullshit descriptions of those who "plan to spend more time with my family, travel or garden." This is a real wrench ... but it is also survive-able. I told him some of my experience and reminded him that "no one ever lay on his death bed and said, 'Gee, I wish I had spent more time in the office.'"

Funny how anyone might wish like fury to be free of one burden or another and yet when they are in fact  free of that burden -- when all their enemies are buried, when the lottery winnings are in hand -- there is a definite eeek factor.

How many hymns are sung and how many petitions written -- all of them seeking to "lay my burden down?" It's no wonder that Christianity suggests that death is the only blessed out. "Burdens" and "enemies" are endless ... but more than that, they create a support system. How would I know who I was if I didn't have something to whine about?

I feel fortunate to have encountered Zen Buddhism, a format that provides a different approach to what is burdensome and delightful. Nope, you don't have to drop dead in the literal sense. Die? Yes. Drop dead? Nope. Does it make things easier? Do all the burdens flake off like loose dandruff?

I don't know ... find out for yourself.


  1. I have been retired for a little less than 48 hours and that "bullshit," in addition to increasing my practice, is what I thought I had been working for all of these years.

    Based on your experience are you saying that I might need a Plan B?

  2. Bill -- I can't claim to have the one, cookie-cutter, unexcelled understanding of retirement and its novelties. But I do think I'd be a little wary of what I had "been working for all those years." Goals and conclusions have a way of crumbling on examination.

    Best wishes and congratulations on your 'new' life. :)

  3. Thank you.

    I know a couple of people that have gone before me - those who typically self-identify as (name), (profession) - who are miserable in retirement. I just don't see myself as one of them.

    Winter could pose a challenge, I suppose, since most of the activities that I enjoy require warm weather - and winters are rather long here. I may need a Plan B after all.

    Until then I'll be in the garden. :)

  4. Retirement ain't so bad. The pay sucks but your overhead goes down and the hours are great.