.....well, not really hidden, just not written about all that much. In addition to financial discipline, a good amount of luck, strong relationships and a healthy lifestyle there is one additional part of my satisfying retirement.
I want to approach this subject carefully. My goal is not to turn anyone off. I've worked too hard on this blog to write something that will drive some readers away. And, I must be sensitive to others' feelings since this subject can generate as much heat as light.
The one piece of the puzzle that I have used to build my satisfying retirement is the importance of my spiritual life. Okay, relax. I am not in the business of promoting my religion, convincing you I have found "The Way," or getting all preachy. Actually, my approach is just the opposite. I am simply stating that my life caught fire when I discovered that side of myself.
I am a Christian and that means I believe that certain things are true. But, I am not arrogant or dumb enough to claim I have the all the answers. I am still more full of questions than I am answers. Are there other paths to God, or a supreme being, or a raised consciousness, or whatever you may believe? I don't believe so, but I won't know for sure until I'm dead. I am not going to prejudge anyone else. I will do my best to live my life a certain way that matches my beliefs. If you ask me questions I will answer them. But, I will not attack whatever beliefs you do, or do not have. Respect is key.
With that "disclaimer" out of the way, what does any of this have to do with my retirement? I've come to believe the answer is, "a lot." There are several benefits that I believe have come from my enhanced spiritual life. One is an overall sense of calm and peace. The people I grew up with, my high school, college, and work friends, would never believe that is my condition. Until seven or eight years ago, I was stressed, uptight, looking to blame others, short-tempered, verbally abusive, anxious.....in short, a mess. I was a type A person with a capital A.
All of that negative energy didn't disappear overnight. The unwinding took a few years. But, as my awareness of the love for me from something much greater than myself grew, my anxiety decreased. I began to let things be what they were. I didn't feel the need to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders as much. As that releasing came, my day-to-day life improved. I found I could relax more. I discovered I actually had a touch of empathy buried deep inside that was moving toward the surface. I became....well, happy.
I have come to understand the role of money and possessions in my life. When I was on the road 150 days a year, making a six figure salary, living in a big house with an upper middle class lifestyle, I wasn't really enjoying it much. Of course, I was gone a lot. but, even when I was home I was working in my office and rarely taking the time to swim in the pool or sit in the spa, or even relax on the porch. I was very good at making sure my family lived beneath our means while saving 25% of my income. But, that still left enough for a nice lifestyle....that wasn't satisfying. I didn't have that something to make me feel successful. Every time a client stopped using my services I'd fly into a panic and doubt my abilities. Even though I had the most incredible children and wife, I was basing my feeling of completeness on my business.
As my religious "training' kicked in it was obvious that I had substituted material idols for spiritual comfort. As my relationship with God deepened the rest of the stuff just slipped into the background. Sure, I liked the house, the convertible, the vacations and the bank account. But, their importance to my daily joy receded. I didn't have to give them up, I just had to put them in perspective. I began to let loose of the things that I couldn't control and let a greater power do his will. My idea of controlling my life was just an illusion anyway. 9/11 and the recession of the last few years has proven that point beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I have come to appreciate the people in my life so much more. Without rehashing it all, my family members were saints for sticking with me through the tough times. Actually, they were simply following our faith's teachings on lifetime commitments and the importance of marriage and family. As my spiritual journey has unfolded I hope that I have become more sensitive and caring toward them.
There are few joys in life greater than good friends, folks you trust with your special secrets. Until 6 years ago I had no one who I'd put in that category. Now, through my church relationships, I have a dozen men and women who I'd trust with my life. That feels fabulous.
OK, that's enough of my exposing a part of me that has become a critical part of who I am and what my life has become. Without this faith and my belief, my satisfying retirement wouldn't be nearly the marvelous journey it has been so far.
Did I scare you off? Are you thinking I've become too personal? To you is belief in a supreme being just a crutch to feel better in a dangerous and irrational world? I invite your comments. Keep them respectful, avoid name-calling and absolute judgments, and we might have an interesting discussion.