Meaning in Life

Post Date: July 24th, 2014


I’ve been thinking about the gobs of unstructured time that is retirement. When one is working full time, this seems like nirvana. When one is ensconced in it in retirement, it looks different.

When I first retired I went through a gentle nine-month decompression from the rigors of fulltime employment. A good deal of it coincided with a cold, snowy winter which I watched from my front window. It was a lovely introspective period. Time was a cushion against the harshness of the weather, and remembered alarm clocks and morning commutes.

Now I am passing into a different stage and I don’t know how to come to terms with it. What does one do after a lifetime of achievement with days of unstructured time? Fortunately I have several weekly and monthly obligations that lend some texture and meaning to my days.

That gets at the biggest difference between the vocation of working and the aftermath of working called retirement. In my working life I acted within the energy of archetypes – nurse, then attorney/warrior, then judge. There was inherent meaning in the work of each. And two of my current obligations now allow me to breathe with the archetypes of sage and writer.

But otherwise I struggle to find meaning in my days. I feel as though I am passing the time rather than meaningfully filling it, and I suffer existential angst as a result. I wonder how I am contributing to the life of the world when I while away time.

Then I think about those in the monastic life who find the extraordinary in ordinary things, contemplatively washing dishes or clothing, tending gardens, praying. I remember a deceased friend who used to do his adult child’s laundry, pouring love into the clothing as he folded each piece. I realize my angst is a yearning for the presence of the divine in daily time, giving meaning in a subtler form than the overtly easy valuing of vocational work.

It doesn’t necessarily answer the question of contributing to the life of the world, except to offer for pondering how lovingly making broth from scratch today contributes to the fabric of life.