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by Caroline Corser
Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles

Just because we're retired doesn't mean we have to quit living.  When I ask people who are about to retire what they plan to do with their lives, I often get answers like, "Oh, I plan to build a meaningful relationship with my  grandchildren."  Or people tell me, "I'm looking forward to visiting with my children."  I say, "Beware!  You're treading on treacherous ground."  Granted that it is important and wonderful to have close and meaningful relationships with our children and grandchildren, retirement should not be a time to depend on our children to make our lives meaningful. 

We've all heard of the "empty nest syndrome" when parents, especially mothers, find a great void in their lives after the children they've raised and nurtured  leave home.  It's only natural to want to continue caring for our children, but we have to give them a break and let them live their lives. 

Expecting your children to include you in their lives can lead to resentment and strained relations, no matter how much they  love you. You will have more to share with them and be a more  independent person if you find your own interests and build a   new life for yourself.  If you haven't done it before, now is the time to assess your talents and passions and look for that  something that turns you on, that makes you eager to get started making things happen for you.  Developing a special  interest is important for a balanced life, whether you're just approaching retirement or already out on your own.

Many people don't know what their special interest is.  If you  are one of those, consider these examples. Most people find  their passions related somehow to their past careers or to  their own special talents.  My friend Rose was already an outdoor person when she developed a passion for birding. Sarah has always been athletic, even though she earned her living as a high school counselor, so it wasn't such a far   stretch to take up in-line skating.  Jim, a retired teacher  and college counselor, had been looking for some new way to  help people when he found he could teach English for the Peace Corps.

Others discover they have untapped interests that they never before had acted upon. Frances Weaver, author of several books for seniors, didn't try writing until she was in her 50's, after her husband died.  Jacques, a professor of philosophy and English, had only acted in one production when he was a college student.  A few years before retirement, he discovered his love for acting and since then has performed in more than 50 productions.  Although Nancy loved art, she never tried painting until after her career in early childhood education.  Her newfound passion is watercolor painting, which she pursues at every opportunity.

If you haven't yet found your passion, if your life seems pointless and lacking in zest, start by assessing yourself and your interests.  First, write down the type of person you
are. Are you an outdoor person or an indoor person? --a thinking person or a doer? --a reader, a writer?  Do you prefer to participate in groups or work alone?  Do you love to teach others or learn new things for yourself?  Are you happier working with plants, animals, or people--with wood or metal-- with words or numbers?  List as many descriptive words as you can think of about yourself.

 Next, write a short paragraph about what you have most enjoyed about your work or your relationships.  Describe the hobbies or activities you always wished you had time for.  Think about  the people whose lives you always envied.  What were they
doing that you would like to do?  This is the place for you to record every inner desire you have harbored in your soul.  Let  every thought come out with no hesitation or criticism.  Put  them all down on paper so you can remember them and work
with them as you continue your search.  Thoughts too easily escape us if they're not written down.

Once you've scraped up every possible interest you've ever dreamed about, you can read it all over and start to toy with ideas for possible adventures you might try.  As an idea comes to you, jot it down and consider how you might turn it into a new adventure. This is where you can start taking action and realizing your true potential.  You may have to do a little research.  Go to the library or check on the Internet for   information or names of organizations that might tell you how  to pursue your new adventure.  Whatever you do, don't give up until you've learned as much as you can about what you might do to make your dream take shape.   Finally, you must start moving.  That may mean enrolling in a class, or buying brushes and paints, or joining a club.  The important thing is to dare to take the first steps and give your dream a try. 

People sometimes deny themselves an  opportunity because they're afraid they "might not like it." Be open and flexible and approach your new adventure with the      attitude that if this doesn't work, you can try some other option.  In the meantime, you're busy building a life for yourself.  Just imagine the stories you'll have to tell your children the next time you see them.  Even misadventures are fun to relate, and they'll admire you for having the gumption to stir up the waters and put new spark in your life.  Go for your dreams, and make every day YOUR OWN adventure!

Caroline Corser, Cheerleader for Positive Lifestyles, speaks to baby boomers and seniors about filling your life with laughter and play. She can be reached at 661-871-9201 or    caroline@AwesomeAging.com


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