I remember loving to spend the summers with my retired grandparents. There was such a wonderful rhythm to their lives. They did the same things over and over, and each week looked like the previous one. My grandfather was a retired hog breeder who now had time to read, take a walk everyday, smoke his pipe after each meal and stay up on the national news. My grandmother was the homemaker and continued her domestic chores of cleaning, doing the laundry, and preparing meals.  They didn’t own a car. They lived simply in an apartment. They had groceries delivered and didn’t venture far from home. They seemed to know their roles well and were in a very stable and predictable groove. This was their retirement.

Retirement looks quite different today. We have many choices. Travel is expected and our culture has created the term  snowbird for those of us who go south for the winter. There are retirement centers and retirement homes and retirement condos, retirement excursions, assisted living for retirees, discounted movies and Y memberships, Senior Discount Days at malls …

If you google “retirement photos” you will find mostly photos of couples, looking very fit and vibrant, basking on a beach, sitting by palm trees sipping cocktails, or playing golf. Very glamorous!

What comes to your mind when you hear the word retirement?

A V.O.W. friend of mine says when she hears the word “retirement”, she thinks of retiring to bed, and envisions sleeping. “I think I’ll retire for the night” kind of thing, only it’s “retire for a few years!” In fact, she says, for her the word has given her permission to sleep more, a little snooze mid-morning, an afternoon nap, then early to bed.

Every time I hear the word, I get a mental image of a cast-off, like old tires, used and tossed aside, maybe in the dump heap, piled high. There’s just no good place for them. Useless. Done. Finished. Retired!

I would like to get real about retirement. I would like to know who decided that the final stage of adult life should be called “retirement” and why. I would like to know for sure how it feels and looks for you.

First of all, many retirees are single, for various reasons, and live alone.

Second, many, maybe most, retirees don’t have an affluent bank account that enables lavish excursions to beach resorts and exotic places.

Third, leaving one’s career in order to “retire” creates a void in life for many of us who loved our work, and even though we have a long list of things we thought we wanted to do when we didn’t have to work, we just can’t get started on them so find ourselves a little bewildered.

You probably know by now, if you are a regular reader of Vibrant Old Woman, that I am never afraid to rename something, or reframe something that feels negative or doesn’t quite fit the situation. Often the simple act of renaming infuses new life into an old object or a worn out practice. I think we should experiment with doing just that with this old term retirement.

How does the Gran Finale of Life fit for you? For me it compares to the final act of a drama or opera, or the final chapter of a good novel. It does not disassociate itself from the other chapters or from the storyline. It is the time when all the pieces come together and tie things up, so to speak. It is the time when we say “Ah, I see who I am!” because we can see the continuum of events and hear the whole melody.

Changing the term gives me a sense of anticipation about how I’m going to define my final stage of life, my time without the 9 to 5, without the definition of a job title or designated role. I don’t need to fit into an already established concept. I can be free to declare to myself, mostly, that this is truly my time to live as I want to and be who I truly am.

I, for one, am going to invigorate my thinking about my life by retiring the term retirement. I’m not using it. From now on I’m declaring that I left my wonderful job several years ago to begin the Gran Finale of my life!

How about you? Are you retired? Or something else…way more wonderful?