After hearing in our 70Candles! discussion groups and on this blog that many women are wondering how they might spend their time, I glanced back on these seven years of my own retirement and offer this summary of how I have dabbled dangerously.
Knitting a Life
by Jane Giddan
Since turning 70, almost seven years ago, and retiring from a long career, I have bravely declared myself a “serial dabbler.” Calling upon historical activity threads of years gone by, I soon began to explore, to find the “perfect” pursuits for the coming years. New to this city, I was also ready to meet new people and establish new relationships.
What I’ve discovered is there is no one “perfect” activity to sustain me in my senior years, and new friends, of all ages, can be developed through common interests. The buffet is endless, I have the luxury of devoting as much time as I want to any pursuit, and, yes, I can still learn new things. Further, when one phase appears to be over, it may not be truly ended, for I can circle back to it at any time.
I began by finding a book group- something during the day. That expanded quickly into two daytime book groups. Lots of interesting reading…some works I’d never have chosen on my own, but have found worthwhile. Congenial groups of women. Many with views similar to my own. Others who diverge, but are open to good-hearted discussion. Lunch afterward where we eat well and get to know each other better…New friends! I checked the local Senior Center, and became involved, for many months, in their lively table tennis scene. An able volunteer instructor elevated my game from tame ping pong to hard-hitting competitive table tennis. It was fast-moving, sweaty fun until I tripped on my doubles partner’s shoe and fell backward with a thud. I decided against further such risks, and moved on.
I found an excellent twice a week Core, Balance and Strength Training class at my local recreation center. The talented instructor, who specializes in older adults (everyone is over 50), miraculously presents different routines in each and every class. New (younger) friends there too.
In these hot Dallas summers I’ve challenged myself with lap swimming in our neighborhood pool. I love the quiet weekday mornings there when others are away at work, and each time I enter the pool I try to exceed my previous number of laps. On Saturday mornings, my dear neighborhood pal joins me.
Lately, at his urging, my husband and I have tried Yoga. At first I participated for his sake, but as our sessions have become more challenging, I look forward to them to increase my own flexibility as well.
My creative impulses have led me in new directions. I’ve always doodled, and wondered if I had some latent artistic talent worth unearthing. To find out, I enrolled in a continuing ed. class at the nearby Community College. After three semesters of happily drawing, in pencil, charcoal and colored pencils, it was gratifying to discover that I could, indeed, reproduce objects I saw before me. Then I paused, and turned my attention to writing, but intend to return to art sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I’m saving my daily telephone doodles in a small journal, thinking they’ll serve as inspiration another day.
When I saw a notice for free ukulele lessons at our local Guitar Center store, I signed on. Early years of piano lessons gave me the confidence to ‘face the music.’ Once I could play some old familiar songs, I carried my uke to nursing homes and entertained my friend’s mom, and then another friend’s husband. Each time I now play their “favorite song” I think of them.
I even got my granddaughter launched with a uke. What a treat to play duets with her!
Writing and marketing projects with my husband take a lot of attention, and tend to temporarily drive out other creative pursuits. We’re currently having translated into Spanish, our children’s picture book – Grackles of Green Grove Protect Their Land – with associated coloring books and short plays, and we’re spreading the word far and wide.
Curating the 70Candles.com blog and writing for HuffPost have become my morning tasks. I’m fascinated by the geographic reach of our blog and the quality of the heartfelt postings from women discussing what matters to them in this era of extended longevity.
Then there’s grand-parenting. We moved to the Dallas area be near our adult children and three grandchildren. We’ve been here as support through sickness and health and through the ups and downs of family life, but overall, what a fine experience it has been. Although as they’ve gotten older, our grandkids no longer want to sleep-over, there’s still so much to do with them and for them. I most enjoy sharing my love of museums and theatre, and learning about their lives and their teen-age culture from them.
I’ve most recently picked up knitting needles, and have been producing scarves, upon request. I know, we said in our 70Candles! book that we weren’t like our grandmothers, “sitting in a rocking chair knitting”….but knitting is fun!…quite addictive, and the fruits of one’s handiwork are happily given and gratefully received gifts. An ancient art form that knows no bounds, knitting can lower blood pressure, calm the mind, and relax the body. All reasons it has experienced a renaissance and has become so popular today. What fun helping my granddaughter learn this craft.
And now, my political bones have been aroused, and I’ve been invited to several local political groups that reflect my values. I’m ready to make a difference in these chaotic times. Who knows where this will lead….or what will come next.
We hope you’ll share what new things you have tried, and let us know how they’ve worked out.