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Retirement can be time to ‘re-focus’ on who you want to be

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19, 2009

Don’t tell my denominational board of pensions, but I don’t consider myself retired.

It’s enough that they think I am. The checks that arrive every month, so as long as they’re happy, I’m happy.

But when people look at my gray hair and wrinkles, then ask if I’m retired, I often say something like: “Some people think so, but I’m actually re-focused.”

I’ve referred to myself as re-focused ever since I began drawing a retirement check four years ago. The more I use that word, the more likely I will consider myself re-focused until my heart and mind are too tired to … well, re-focus.

The period called “retirement” is far more complex and adventurous than our parents and grandparents likely even thought about when they “retired.”

Gone are the stereotypical days when life after 65 usually meant rocking on the front porch (or patio in the back), or engaging in “leisure activities” that ended up boring people to death, or spending the rest of our days struggling with one health problem after another.

Oh, these things may happen to some people. But for most retirees, life has many more choices now to be healthier and to make some kind of difference in someone else’s life – if those choices are exercised.

Maybe this is what I mean when referring to myself as re-focused. I choose to work at staying healthy. I’m involved in volunteer and professional activities that are meaningful to me and hopefully mean something to others.

“Re-tired” sounds so passive. “Re-focused” is more active, more purposeful.

You who are nearing “retirement”: Do you realize just how long you could be retired? Up to 40 years is not an exaggeration.

Do you want to endure a passive life for another 40 years? I certainly don’t. While my body may slow down, I intend that my passion for life and for other people stays re-focused.

Fortunately, a good many other people believe the same way, even if they don’t call themselves re-focused. Retirement is filled with more opportunities than ever before.

We can take time to reflect not only on the lives we’ve lived, but on the lives we want to live.

We can explore hobbies or work opportunities we didn’t have time for when punching a clock.

Our financial resources may dictate some of what we can do. But the money, or lack of money, doesn’t determine who we choose to be. That decision comes from our inner self, not from a bank statement. (Some things never change, not even in retirement.)

So whether you are edging closer to a retirement decision, whether you have been retired for a few weeks or many years, what re-focus work do you need to do in order to be who you believe you can be?

To put it in terms of spiritual formation: God is not done working with you to make you who you can become. So who do you want to be as you age?

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident, be contacted via e-mail at


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