Missing the Present for Seeing the Future

Neil and I had hoped to retire at age 62. I knew his death would have financial ramifications, but in the last few months I started to wonder just what they would be.

In an attempt to help, my financial advisor gave me a checklist for assessing my future plans. I have to admit, this was hard. Not just because of the detailed financial budget questions, but because I had to look to the future.

Until then I had started to adjust to my present and cherish my past, but I had not yet been able to embrace my future. Neil and I dreamed of exploring the world in a little camper. We were going to drink coffee all morning, then sit around the campfire counting stars and drinking beer or wine all evening. We were going to surprise our relatives with unexpected visits. We were going to stay with friends at the beach, and while Neil napped or read in a hammock I would explore the shoreline collecting shells.

And when we came home from our travels, we imagined plenty of time to talk about the books we read, watch old movies, enjoy the Hallmark channel, walk the Chessie trail, and sit on our patio rockers and daydream. Now all that is gone. Oh I know, I can still do all those things, but they sound lonely and empty without Neil to share them.

“Well you have to figure out what you want to do in retirement to know how much money you need,” my financial advisor pointed out. “Do you want to stay in the house? Do you want to travel? Will you want to take the girls on trips with you? How will you spend your days?

Determined to figure out a plan, I began to reflect on those questions.. Do I want to work longer so I can take my daughters to Italy or Alaska? Do I have the resources to retire at 62 and keep my house? Do I even want to keep my house or do I want to move to Florida?

Then I started scrutinizing my finances and decided I was spending too much. Cable TV had to go; organic vegetables were a luxury I could no longer afford. Gym membership was Ok but the cell phone bill was too high. The deductibles on the car insurance were too low. To say I was becoming fixated on finances and the future was an understatement; I was totally absorbed.

And then one day a friend and I discovered we had both gone to Al-Anon over the years. We quickly recalled  stories and slogans that touched us.         

            One day at a time, which means stop projecting what could happen.

Deal with what you can, then Let go and let God.

           The beloved Serenity prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the
             things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the 
             wisdom to know  the difference. 

Just for today, I will…. stop worrying? Not be afraid? Be happy
with what I  have?

I remembered my chronic propensity to worry so much about the future that I miss the present. I was doing it again!

And so I decided yet another time to find that balance that continually eludes me. Sure I want to retire in the future but not at the risk of ruining my present. The cable wasn’t something I care about, but those fresh vegetables were. It wasn’t worth lowering my cell phone bill by a few dollars if I couldn’t reach the girls wherever they were. And Italy or Alaska or Florida, who knows? I remembered a joke whose punch line was something like, “If you want to hear God laugh, make plans.”

I know my readers well enough to recognize you understand exactly what I am talking about. So fill in the blank for yourself: Just for today……..

And feel free to share your answers here among friends!

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Thanks, Colleen. “Just for today….I will not worry whether or not the dishes are done (substitute “floor is clean, mirrors are polished, etc. “) when my husband asks me to sit down and watch something on t.v. with him.” Easier said than done. Just need to pray for God’s grace, do the best I can and not beat myself up when I don’t.

    1. So true, Mary! It’s really hard for all us ‘do-ers’ to stop when there are things to be done, but in the end the dishes (floors, mirrors, etc.) don’t really matter, people do. Enjoy those special TV moments while you can.

      (And to be honest, if your house is like mine, there is always something to be done!)

  2. Your posts are always so reassuring to me. My husband of 32 years passed 4 years ago. I thought I was the only one who floundered and felt overwhelmed with something as simple as sorting through the mail. I, too, was missing the present while trying to figure out what my new “normal” was going to be. My prayers are with you and thanks so much for sharing your journey. It’s nice to have good company.

    1. yes, figuring out the new “normal” is definitely a challenge! Thanks for your kind words – I am glad you found your way here!

  3. One of my father’s favorite sayings/prayers: The Serenity Prayer. Every time I start to worry or wonder, he reminds me of it and has to say it.
    Good for you! Live in the moment (though not always easy), but you are strong and you can do it. You are an inspiration to many!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I think I need to hang the Serenity Prayer up on my frig where I will see it every day 🙂

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