By Marie Ardiito
Co-founder, Massachusetts Retirees United (www.retireesunited.org)
Did you ever notice that when some people are introduced, they are connected to someone else? For example, someone may say, “This is Dave Harris, Steve’s father” Some are identified by the job or title they have. “This is Harry Jones. He is principal of my son’s school.” Others are associated with a location or time frame. “This is Peggy Martin. We grew up together in Maynard.” Such connective introductions are fine (and often helpful), as long as they do not become our way of identifying ourselves to ourselves.
One of the hardest assignments I was given in a course was to come up with the words I would want put on my tombstone. In other words, the few terms by which I would want to be remembered. It is an exercise that can take hours, even days of thought and it cuts to the core of how you perceive and portray yourself.
As you approach or (hopefully) enjoy retitrement, a litte soul searching can be of value. What makes you feel happy? What do you truly enjoy doing? What makes you tense and what helps you relax? The very things that make one person happy may seem like work to others. For example, there are those who think gardening, cooking, or doing a remodeling project are work and there are others who find such tasks creative and enriching. You have to discover what works for you.
While you are looking at yourself, consider whether or not you have any form of addiction. These need not be related to gambling or drinking. An addiction is anything that consumes us to the point that we ignore personal responsibilities or that we harm ourselves in some way. There are soap opera junkies, food junkies, Internet and TV junkies, and (even in reitrement) work junkies. The large amount of so-called “free” time one has in retirement can feed the addiction just by allolwing more time to dedicate to it. That is why one of the things we should address in our preparation for retirement is how to eliminate or at least control the addictions in our lives, regardless of how benign they may seem.
In addition to what you like doing, there is another important thing to discover about yourself. What are your strengths? What are you really good at doing? A lot of people claim to know their faults but may not pay as much attention or give as much weight to their strong points. Maybe that is why so many really great things are never accomplished. There is something you can do that probably no one else can do or at least not the way that you can. There is some gift, talent, or ability you have that may have been dormant to this point. It can be something as simple as your smile that puts sunshine in the life of other people. It may be the way you listen intently to what someone is saying and make them feel that you really care. Maybe it is the ability you have to make other people feel like you have all the time in the world for them and that they are more important than anything else, at least for that moment. You may have a gift of being able to relate well to people. You have strengths. Learn what they are and capitalize on them!
Remember you are capable and lovable. Feel comfortable with youreself. Become your own best friend because you have been with you for a long time and hopefully will continue to be with you for a long time ito come. There is no one you will spend more time with than you. Learn to be good to yourself and to feel comfortable with yourself. You are important, you are great, and you are unique. There never was, nor is there now, nor will there ever be another you and that is wonderful!