October 5, 2011

A Hidden Piece of the Puzzle

.....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.

18 comments:

  1. For the last twenty days I have been living with my mom in her new retirement home.she is a mid life 81. The people here range from 75-100 ish. One thing I know of the ones whom I have chatted with - they are spiritually active. Bible studies and religious services abound.
    You have found a good church, with a good community. That seems to be key. I agree with you on the level of happiness it all brings.

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  2. This post, like all your others, was honest, authentic, and clearly stated. I appreciate you sharing this core part of you so directly. For careful readers of your blog, it was evident prior to this post that there were special relationships supporting you even though you didn't articulate them this directly (including Jesus, your wife and children, prison ministry friends, etc.). These are great gifts, freely given as you know. Enjoy.

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  3. Janette,

    I didn't realize you had stayed in town to help mom with her transition. That is a fabulous thing for you to do. It is tough to move, especially as we age, and even more so if we are alone. You are a good daughter.

    I agree that age does bring a certain openness to the spiritual side of life. Maybe it is because there is more time to think about all that life means. Maybe it is because we are getting closer to the end and want to believe there is more after this life. Whatever the reason, it does bring joy and comfort.

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  4. Rick,

    What a beautiful comment. It is folks like you that make blogging and relationship building such a joy. As you note I haven't hidden my beliefs but have let my life and my choices speak for those who can hear. This time, though, I felt the need to be a bit more direct while hopefully maintaining a high degree of respect for all.

    Thank you, again, Rick. You have started my day on a high note.

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  5. In my few years of retirement, I believe that you have hit the nail on the head. As everything kinda slowed down as I got in the retirement mode, I had more of an opportunity to reflect on different subjects. I have become more relaxed and can key in on the important things. I like to think of it as keeping your eye on the ball for the bigger prize. Anyhow, I try to be non-judgmental of others and do good for others also.

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  6. EverReady,

    Very nicely said. The chance to allow your mind to focus on deeper things is one of the real benefits of this phase of life I call a satisfying retirement.

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  7. Bob, You latest email reiterating the importance of God and faith in your everyday life did not scare me off in the least. As a born-again Christian I understand fully the importance of your belief in Jesus Christ, and how He guides you each day. I try to do the same although I sometimes fail. It is also one of the reasons my wife and I left the North last year and moved to a Southern state - we truly believe we are closer to God in this geography, where you faith is not something to keep hidden. Keep up the great work!

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  8. Chuck,

    That's an interesting idea that certain parts of the country may be more open to displays of faith. If true, it may be both heritage and life-style based.

    Thanks for the comment and being there.

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  9. I think you are lucky to have found a church that enhances your life. Did you grow up in that church or pick a new one? At this point, I'm not affliated with any particular church-yet right now I'm reading The Saints' Guide To Happiness. It seems that when you realize that there is a higher power, you can give up trying to control things and just live in simplicity and gratitude.

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  10. Donna,

    Actually we have changed churchs 3 times in the 26 years we have lived in Phoenix. The first we went to for 20 years. But, after a time we found we had become "social Christians," going for services but little else. We changed to another, smaller church where our faith life really caught fire. We made great, close friends, and found a home. Unfortunately, that church underwent several major changes that left us cold, so a few months ago we started going to a new church.

    The church itself is just the structure that allows people to grow and learn, find friends, and deepen relationships. Understanding how little control someone has over much of anything does allow for a real sense of peace.

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  11. Like others, I found this post honest and encouraging. I understand your hesitation about writing it. After a reader commented on my quotation of the entire Serenity Prayer, which uses much more overtly Christian language than the first and more well known part, I had to grapple with this issue myself.

    As you probably know by now, my faith community is Christian, although my personal beliefs do not exclude other paths to God, which puts me at odds with many Christians. I think of faith like water. Water takes on the shape of whatever contains it, but the water does not change.

    But your post , as I understand it, is not really about the merits of various faiths as much as it is about the value to your life of having faith. And with that I agree entirely. My faith sustains me and comforts me and enlightens me and guides me. And my faith community enriches my life in many ways. For example, when the early months of this year brought unexpected and challenging changes to my family, my church rallied around me and my daughters in the most marvelous ways.

    So I appreciate your courage and willingness to share this part of your puzzle, without which the satisfying part of your retirement would be diminished.

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  12. Galen,

    You are correct. The post is not a testimony meant to convince anyone to follow my beliefs, though I'd be happy to talk privately with anyone about that.

    Rather, it is exactly as you stated: my attempt to show the role faith and spirituality play in my retirement journey. I wouldn't have said this 6-8 years ago, but the growth of this area of my life has made my satisfying retirement even more so.

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  13. There's a quote in the bible where Jesus tells a follower, if you want true peace, give away your worldly possessions and come follow me. Not too many people can do that.

    But I did.

    It was 2001, I just lost my business, my life was a mess and on Feb 8, 2001, I sat out in the cold,frigid Northeast winter, on the curb in front of my home and told God I made a mess of my life. I was ready to give up everything and I would come follow Him.

    Fast forward to today, and there isn't one single thing in my life from the 'before' time. No clothes, furniture, nothing from the past. God indeed did make me a new person and rebuilt me from the ground up. It took Him 10 years to remake me in His own image. It was an amazing journey, filled with joy AND pain. I'm writing a book about it.

    I am a Born Again Christian but not a member of any church. Isn't it awful that we have to lose people, or readers, if we dare speak about God? I think as we get older, we become more spiritual. Material possessions are futile. And I would lose it all again, pick up once again and go follow Jesus Christ once again. Because to be in His presence, and follow His way is really all that matters to me.

    I wake up each day and ask God to guide me. I never need to worry because God will not fail me. Abundant miracles come my way. For example, I needed $50 this week, by Tuesday to cover a bill. I was frantic. I either had to sell a few silver coins or make a withdrawal out of my savings, which I know God doesn't want me to touch. Lo and behold, from out of nowhere, in that days' mail came an insurance refund check for $116!!!! I was NOT expecting that! No way. But there it was. I was able to cover the $50 bill plus God gave me a little bit extra.

    That's what He is like. He provides. And gives you that little bit extra.

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  14. Morrison,

    Thank you for a strong testimony of your faith. As we age we become more aware of the bigness of the universe and the smallness of our place in the overall scheme of things.

    Yet, if we are open to the experience we can also gain a feeling that everything is connected. We may be quite small, but we matter and we have a purpose.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. Mahalo and Aloha from Maui.

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  15. Bob:

    That was a very respectful post about your beliefs, I for one love your more personal posts.

    I find it interesting that you and others have worried that you would offend readers by sharing this type of thing. I recently read about a Gallup poll that said 92% of Americans believe in God. Since the survey has been conducted, the number has never dipped below 90% in the U.S. (http://news.salon.com/2011/06/06/americans_belief_in_god_gallup/)

    So actually sharing an atheist or agnostic post is much more likely, percentage-wise, to offend or turn away readers, not the other way around.

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  16. Hi Syd,

    Like politics, discussions of religion can generate a fair amount of heat rather than light. So, I tread cautiously. I agree that if I claimed to be an atheist I would probably have had to delete most of the comments!

    The more personal posts do tend to generate more interest. I just have a hard time coming up with subjects that lend themselves to that approach. But, I keep searching!

    Should I tackle politics and sex?

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  17. Thanks for bringing such an exceptional concept. Sometimes we avoid such a strong issue to discuss but it is essential to concentrate on such topic for the sake of our existence.

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  18. Jasmine,

    Thank you for your supportive feedback. If we always steer through only safe water we never grow as humans.

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