As I collect the two monthly government cheques that signify my transition to old age–totally a grand total of $1384.83—I find myself pondering life before and after I qualified for a pension. I’ve played many roles; daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, colleague, boss, entrepreneur, aspiring writer. So far, I’ve had three distinct careers. I’ve had three healthy children. I’ve lost three pillars of my family: father, mother, brother. The abundance and the challenges have influenced who I am today, how I am today, and what matters most to me.
I am now taking the time, conjuring up the courage, and risking new storylines so that I may live the next phase rooted in my purpose and truth. It’s fascinating. And scary. And affirming. To shift to being an observer of my life, while in my life. It’s a luxury to slow down enough to notice. To acknowledge I have choices. To permit myself to do what is right for me. To not have to keep up with the crowd, adapt to the majority. To stop doing my damndest to blend in, while feeling very different on the inside.
I believe that social media is unraveling individuality. I observe that it acts as the judge and jury on what is acceptable. On what is beautiful. Or what your home should look like. Or how you should curate your life. I used to be easily swayed by public opinion, media persuasion, and anything that attempted to equate inner happiness with something new. Perhaps because all of it seems unattainable, materialistic, and stressful, I am detaching as much as possible. Reality and authenticity are humbling aspirations.
On my quest, it has occurred to me that my early efforts of generosity failed to reflect the complex nature of the word and action. I thought that sharing material possessions, food, vehicles and money was the pillar of benevolence. So, I devoted myself to a career, climbed the corporate ladder, bought more toys, found a bigger house, and added cars for convenience. And the cycle of work hard, make more, have more, need more, work harder, buy more, played over and over and over.
And life became more complex; an endless series of logistical challenges and bathroom renovations. And my energy and time for things I most cherished evaporated. Conscious shifts in my life are preceded by several defining moments. Only realized upon reflection.
Years ago, while attending a parenting class and reading literature on bringing up healthy, confident and happy children, I came upon a statistic that I now know was a catalyst in my evolution. Thousands of teens and young adults, when surveyed about what they most wanted and needed in their childhood, told not of a new bike, more toys, straight teeth, or daily pizza. They wanted more time and attention from their parents. Seemingly unattainable, yet free.
The value of my past is in the memories and learning. I now appreciate the facets of generosity. Sometimes flowers are enough. Sometimes lending a ride is enough. Sometimes sharing a sweater is enough. Always, taking time, making a phone call, listening without judgment, being beside, having an extra kleenex, extends the effort of magnanimity. And conveys deep kindness and caring.
I am now facing the bounty in my life. I wish to pare down. Have less. Evaluate what aligns with my desired path and get rid of the rest. Invest my time and energy in experiences rather than “havings.” I am seeking less complexity, fewer moving parts, more time for what matters most.
At least, that is my experience.