When I was growing up, people sometimes used to refer to retirement as “the Golden Years.” I thought this was a rationalization to make up for getting old--until I reached them. There’s an envelope of time when everything comes together and life is wonderful. You have time, money, energy and good health, a rich collection of family and friends, the ability to pursue fascinating interests and travel anywhere you want. Everything you know has come together; you’re smarter than you ever were.
These are the golden years, a promised gift I never believed in. I sit in our garden which feels close to paradise with its fish, birds, and lush greenery, and I am washed by gratitude. Yet tucked among the hydrangeas and holly is poignance as well because, unlike earlier days when life seemed to stretch out forever, I know this will not last. It might end in twenty-five years or it might end next week.
Earlier in my life, the impermanence might have spoiled it for me; now I just feel grateful to have gotten here.
I could end here, feeling thrilled about being alive in the most beautiful month of the year, and you could go on to spend the day in bliss. But I began writing with a cautionary tale in mind, so you can either stop reading now or go on to the lesson. Last fall a woman I know asked me to come over to seeing about decluttering. Her house was lovely and not that disorganized, but she had many beautiful things she and her partner, now deceased, had collected. She decided that it would be most helpful if I could help her label them so that her nieces would know how valuable they were.
But she kept putting it off and, to be honest, I didn’t push her because I was busy and don’t do much professional decluttering anymore. Recently she fell and wasn’t discovered for several days. In the hospital she was confused and, though she’s only in her mid-seventies, probably won’t be able to live in her house again. So: it’s never too early to designate recipients for the things that are meaningful to you, and start getting rid of whatever is not. Part of the Golden Years means facing that eventually someone else will have control over your things.
So enjoy today in the garden, and think about this tomorrow when it’s raining. I mean Tuesday, not some metaphorical