By Kathy Hendricks
Dolores Curran was a prolific author and popular speaker. Her work spanned several decades and her writing on family and parenting garnered several awards, including a Christopher Award for her book Traits of a Healthy Family. Dolores was also a cherished mentor and good friend. Her syndicated column, “Talks with Parents”, ran for three decades in newspapers around the country. Because of the enormous trove of written material, I once asked if she thought of collecting some of it in a “best of…” collection. “Absolutely not!” she replied. She went on to emphasize how she had no interest in continuing to write or give any more keynotes, workshops, retreats, or seminars. Her main interest in retirement was to quilt and to spend time with her grandchildren.
I recall being flummoxed by her response at the time. After all, it would have been a wonderful cap to a long and successful career to publish a compendium of her work. Now that I am in a similar position, I get her point. It was not exactly burn-out but a desire to move on with a new purpose in life. It was as if she was saying, “I had a good run and now it’s time for something else.” That something else was a true passion for something she loved doing – creating quilts.
When I was an undergraduate, I had a self-made poster in my room with a quote from the 18th century poet, Joseph Addison. It read, “The three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” It’s curious that I found this so engaging while still in my early twenties as it resonates so strongly in my “still blooming” part of life. Like Dolores, I don’t have much interest in writing more books – especially after completing my latest one, Grace in the Wound: Finding Hope in Long-Term Grief.* Given that it was a long-awaited project now complete, I am ready to move onto something else. I don’t quilt but I do crochet. I cherish time spent with two lively grandchildren, even when they wear me out. I read and watch British mystery series. And I still have a writing project that has been on hold for way too long – a children’s book on seeing the world around them with the help of Ron’s beautiful photography. So there is still something to do each day, which lends purpose to my life. And for that, I am both happy and grateful.
Response by Barbara Anne Radtke
Kathy, thanks for raising the theme of purpose in our “still blooming” years. In our conversations, I often hear the joy you find in a life centered on Addison’s essentials.
In talking to friends, I have heard varying levels of contentment about finding a purpose after a career and raising a family. For some, sensing a shift in purpose has been the motivation for retirement. For others, they only discover their focus after they have begun to shape their retirement years -- and they may have some false starts. Finally, I have encountered people who struggle to uncover meaning in later life. Locating this center of self seems more than a matter of how we use our time. As one friend, who excelled in her career field and had looked forward to pursuing a number of sewing crafts, astutely commented: “I have plenty of projects, but I cannot seem to grasp that sense of purpose.” At the time of this conversation, she was, indeed, a seeker, actively searching for a missing ingredient to integrate her daily life.
Regardless of where we find ourselves on this journey of centering of self, we provide a valuable witness: those of us who are sure inspire others to be courageous; those of us in whom this new focus is emerging inspire others to be pay attention to what is stirring within us; and those of us who are restless in their seeking inspire others to continue to challenge ourselves and to grow.
* Grace in the Wound: Finding Hope in Long-Term Grief
While there are a multitude of books about the immediate aftermath of death and loss, very few cover the long process of grief and the grace that can unfold with time. The book looks at both as well as the impace of unresolved and/or unacknowledged grief.
The book is now available from Twenty-Third Publications - http://www.twentythirdpublications.com/grinwonehoin.html
It is also available through Amazon.