Stonemasons Retire 4

Stonemasons 4

         This will be the last of our Stone Masons’ Story. We have presented many issues and situations to think about that can influence all of us at this stage of our lives. Retiring is the freedom to go in any direction depending on how we think, plan, and communicate. “Mindsets are not cast in stone.” [1]

Increasingly, John (for whom work had been a “job”) and his wife argued because of his gambling, drinking, over-eating and watching television. They weren’t communicating and dinners together were strained, relieved only by the distraction of TV. His wife recognized the widening gap in their relationship, and considered divorce, but realized that would be a costly pathway to follow. It would be difficult for the children, grandchildren, and her parents who had just moved in with them.[2] Lawyers’ fees were likely to be huge, it would be more costly living apart than living together, and the few assets they had would not last through the years they had left.

They sought counseling and, through improved communication, were able to change direction from the potentially disastrous direction they were going. John slowly developed a resilient mindset.[3] John found a part-time job that got him out of the house, provided supplementary income, and enabled him to socialize and meet new friends. His wife arranged to work fewer hours so they could spend more time together and find new social connections that expanded their interests and activities.

With good communication, Carl (for whom work had been a “career”)and his wife became aware that their image of retirement didn’t quite meet the reality of their experience. “Free time was more difficult to enjoy than work.”[4] They had expected that retirement would be like a life-long vacation with lots of fun activities, travel, and living where the weather was warm most of the time, They had enough money and even a summer place in Maine where they could escape Florida’s stifling summer heat and humidity. However, they came to learn that being busy wasn’t the same as having purpose. They knew what to do, but not why. They also hadn’t realized how much they’d miss their children and grandchildren by living so far away and seeing them much less frequently. Carl was surprised that he missed his work and found that he wasn’t allowed back at his job because he’d allowed his credentials to expire.

As the initial excitement about retiring started wearing off, Carl and his wife had lots to discuss and adjustments to make. Both found volunteer opportunities. Carl found an opportunity to teach woodworking as part of a local special needs program. Not only did he get great satisfaction from making a difference in people’s lives, but he also had access to a well-equipped shop where he could do some of his own work. His wife discovered that volunteering at hospice fit her personality, needs, and strengths.

Although Paul (for whom work had been a “passion”) said he’d “never retire,” a stroke left him suddenly paralyzed on his right side, and his career was over. The narrow focus on his passion, though rewarding while he was pursuing it, had created a blindness to other opportunities and possibilities for enjoyment. In his mind there were no other options. His work was his pride and joy, his identity; so why look elsewhere? The stroke abruptly changed all that, but Paul wasn’t ready for change. He thought he embraced change because he kept up with the latest techniques and equipment, and attended continuing education where he collaborated with colleagues. However, he was unprepared for the real change of retirement and the fact that we all will retire, either by choice or not.

Paul’s compassionate spouse was very supportive of him with his new condition. She helped get him to the rehab program every day, and listened to his hours of lamentations about what used to be. She helped him get over his shattered dreams and worked with him to find opportunities that paralysis presented. She helped him see that his passion could be redirected to new activities. Having plunged into the depths of despair, Paul emerged from his stroke experience surprisingly stronger for he had found a new passion to help others cope with the trauma of strokes. Experiencing post-traumatic stress growth, he turned “misfortune into a springboard for helping others,” and discovered “unexpected tenacity and strengths.” [5]

The stories of these three stonemasons are intended to stimulate thought about our new futures as retiring dentists. This time of our lives has the potential to be the absolute best of times. We can take all the resources and experiences that we have accumulated in the first two thirds of our lives and combine them to pursue our highest purpose with joy and enthusiasm. We are in control of our decisions and our attitudes which will directly affect our future, and we must act to make them real.

Neil S. Hiltunen, D.M.D., F.A.G.D.

President, Association of Retiring Dentists 10/3/17

[1] Robert Brooks, The Power of Resilience, P. 4

[2] 40 % of AARP members are still supporting parents and children. P. 97 Disrupt Aging, Joanne Jenkins

[3] Robert Brooks The Power of Resilience, P.3

[4] Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage, p.155

[5] Resilience, The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, Steven M. Southwick, M.D. & Denis S. Charney, M.D., p. 192

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