Ann Hoffman-Ruffner founded Wayfinding Women, LLC after a 30 year career as a therapist and administrator for inpatient psychiatry. A lifelong advocate for women & girls, Ann is a certified Martha Beck coach and a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Candidate.
To distract myself from the discomfort of not having a clue where to begin, I played with “Blog Post Headline Analyzer,” an online tool that grades your blog headline. I rationalized this was a better use of my time than watching YouTube videos of dogs who were crazed because a cat stole their bed. Ten Analyzer spins later, with a solid B+ in headlining, I still hadn’t written a single word. What is it about doing something new that paralyzes us?
And what is retirement and the next chapter of our lives if not the continual learning and adjusting to something new? Whether it’s an unwanted move, a divorce, the death of someone we love, new health issues or empty-nesting, the changes that often accompany midlife can be overwhelming and leave us not knowing which way to turn. In fact, with all we need to redefine and adjust to in midlife, I’m shocked that more of us aren’t sitting transfixed at red lights, unable to move while impatient twenty-somethings honk their horns all around us.
When you top off the whole midlife mix with retirement, the real hum-dinger of adjustments for career women, you have the perfect recipe for a midlife meltdown.
For the first time in history, millions of career women are facing retirement and the questions that come with it. What do we do after spending the past 30-40 years defining ourselves by our work and roles in life? Who will we be now? How will we stay relevant? And of course the biggie, is it really ok to read a book at 3pm in the afternoon and watch Ellen every day?
As working women, we achieved—we showed up, were seen and were as brave as anyone required to wear pantyhose could be. We held positions of authority and influence, delegating and multi-tasking like we were on fire. We took care of homes, spouses, children, other people’s children, aging parents and some unfortunate houseplants. We rocked our world. And now, our dues paid and duties done, we reach for the reward of retirement only to realize it doesn’t quite live up to the grand hype. By week three, the allure of sleeping in has worn off for most of us and we may find ourselves staring down day after day of having no obligation that would actually require us to get dressed or leave the house.
And so we don’t.
Others of us go the opposite route and seek refuge in “keeping busy” with volunteering, babysitting the grandkids and speed-walking the mall. But simply having a busy calendar isn’t necessarily gratifying for women used to living in the fast lane.
Is this the way the rest of our life has to be? Can the promise of a rich and rewarding retirement be redeemed?
Transitions and change don’t have to be incapacitating, and as women we have a very powerful coping tool on our side; our ability to communicate.
Women are more likely to talk about their concerns and questions more openly and honestly than men. This ability to share thoughts and feelings about the complexities and contradictions of this time of life with like-minded women who make us feel safe and not judged can help us tremendously in navigating these uncharted waters. As highly educated, successful and resourceful women, we can be there for each other through this yet unwritten chapter.
We can choose to write that next chapter consciously with intention, so that we remain open to the endless possibilities of life and continue to grow.
And who knows—we may even start blogging!