By Lynnelle Wilson, founder of BOLD-Women, Redefining “Senior” on Facebook
If you’ve ever ridden on the London Tube, you are well familiar with the ubiquitous warning message, “Mind the Gap.” This is a message warning boarding and exiting passengers to pay attention to the space between the platform and the train.
Living in London, getting on and off the train is one of those things you do so often its more of a reflex than a calculated action. You’re on automatic and move from the stationary platform onto a soon-to-be-moving train without any conscious planning. Most of the time the gap between the platform and the train is negligible. Sometimes, however, the gap is wider and if you don’t pay attention, you could misstep, trip and get stuck… or worse.
Throughout our lives we’ll navigate many gaps. You know that gap-in-time between the familiar “normal” (the platform) and the new, yet-to-be-fully-formed “normal” (the moving train). Any number of situations can create a GAP, some expected and anticipated, such as when you:
- Graduate from school and enter the real world,
- Get married,
- A divorce,
- An illness,
- A death.
Planned or unplanned, you’ll find yourself looking at your old “normal” life in the rear view mirror and your new life may or may not be visible yet, depending on the enormity of your gap. This is my GAP story.
In 2017 I officially became a Senior. Shortly thereafter, I officially retired. Three months later, my Mom died. And, I did not “Mind the Gap.”
When I was working, I was going 100 miles an hour. I traveled, raced from one meeting to another, city after city. There were never enough hours in a day. When I quit in July of 2017, I was helping to care for my elderly Mom. Having the stress of the career lifted from my shoulders was a blessing. Within 3 months, my Mom died and not too long after that – I hit a wall. It was as if I woke up one morning and didn’t know who I was. I didn’t have a schedule, I didn’t have a focus, I didn’t have a goal. It felt like I didn’t have an identity anymore and I didn’t know what to do.
After a period of wallowing around, I brushed off the list of all the things I wanted to do, see, and learn and I took action. I put things in motion and started checking the boxes. I took it on with a vengeance, as if I were competing in a Ninja contest. It was clear pretty quickly, that wasn’t the solution. I wanted to experience all these things for myself, not as a badge of accomplishment.
So, then I went the to the other extreme. I started thinking about all these things I’d said I wanted to do when I retired and I thought, “Are these things REALLY important to me? Or, had they been on my list for so long I thought they SHOULD be important?” “Besides,” I thought, “Kurt (my husband) didn’t want to live in France like I did. How will that work to do that on my own? Then came:
- I should… I shouldn’t…What will they think?
- But I’m over 60 – I’m not strong enough to keep up with… the jet lag is too much… It will take too long to finish…I’m too old to learn a new way of….
- It’s so expensive, I can’t afford to….
- But, my husband, (insert your choice…kids, parents, grandkids, Fluffy, book club….) needs me too much.
- “What the hell am I thinking?!!!!!”
BOOM! — The things that we let our head do to us, right?
As wonderful and fulfilling as I imagined my post-career (er, Senior) life to be, it took me a while to get there. Three years on and I’m settling into my new normal – and then COVID.
COVID aside, the new normal didn’t come easily or quickly. Women our age tend to do a lot of self-limiting reflection when facing our gaps, especially retirement, which keeps us stuck. (See said reflection points above.) This was me.
Don’t be me!
It took a while, but finally admitting that I was the reason I was stuck, that I was the reason my retired life wasn’t going the way I wanted, my new “normal” started to come into focus. I saw that I wasn’t stuck because Mom died, or because Kurt didn’t love France as much as I did, or for the lack of money. Fear, lack of confidence, self-consciousness all mired me in the gap. I was stuck because I was afraid to get unstuck and I felt I was alone in that. I mean, who has all the time they want to live the way they want and ISN’T happy?
As it turns out, I’m not the only one to feel this way. Retiring isn’t always easy for intelligent, independent, professional women and sometimes we just want to be with kindred spirits. Once you retire you don’t have the same energetic, intellectually stimulating environment. Your professional community isn’t there anymore. Granted, it may take a while to completely divorce yourself, but you don’t belong the way you did. And that’s what the BOLD-Women, Redefining “Senior” group is. A community for intelligent, independent, retired professional women (or about to be retired) who want a community of kindred spirits. The Facebook group is private (requires accepting the group rules), free, and available only to women interested in joining a kindred community.
The BOLD-Women, 3rd Quarter Council is a peer-to-peer group that is part mastermind, part intellectual salon, part tough-love coach, and part sounding board. The BOLD Women 3rd Quarter Council is a private membership, more personalized community for women with specific objectives or goals, or those who want to be a part of a like-minded community of women who want to continue learning new things and stretching themselves. The BOLD Women 3rd Quarter Council launches Tuesday, December 29, 2020. For more information you can join the free Facebook Group, BOLD-Women, Redefining “Senior.”
A well-written expression of your Senior experiences…..I definitely relate. You translated them into relatable words so I could connect with you both emotionally and experientially. I still have a way to go to settle into my “new normal,” but I’m getting there. I will check, in from time to time. Thanks for sharing. Laurel Silva
Laurel, thank you so much for commenting! We’ll pass your comment along to Lynnelle. We’re lucky to have Lynnelle share her wisdom and experiences with us. XO The Team