Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
These lyrics, from John Lennon’s famous song ‘Imagine’ written during the Vietnam War and echoing the aspirations of the peace movement, speak to the dreams of many postworksavvy readers for a retirement that involves ‘living for today’.
Lennon speaks to the human capacity to have impossible dreams and to imagine these dreams becoming reality. The song echoes the dreams of freethinkers. For the postworksavvy free thinking about life requires self-knowledge and the capacity to connect with creative aspirations of the soul.
How do you uncover your dreams?
Everyone has unspoken dreams and longings. With retirement comes the realization that this is the time to act on those dreams. It is also a time when many of the previous roadblocks are gone. The time restrictions during career building are gone. You no longer have to prove yourself to anyone but yourself. Money or health may be the greatest limitations — and, of course, your capacity to dream big dreams and to live your dreams.
Many writers advise creation of a ‘bucket list’ and making a plan to fulfill the items on the list. In the movie, The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made living to complete their bucket list an adventurous challenge as both characters they portrayed faced certain death. Postworksavvy readers are aware that retirement is the last great opportunity to complete our personal aspirations, dreams — or our own ‘bucket list’.
Uncovering those deep longings and creating a bucket list of dreams that goes beyond travel, perfecting talents, and learning new skills remains a challenge. Like many retirees, I have worked to understand what I really want from my postworksavvy life. My thinking keeps evolving as I learn about myself, grow and change.
Techniques For Imagining
I am not ready to finalize my dreams for the perfect retirement and I hope that I never will stop dreaming and imaging. Perhaps retirement will never be perfect. As I work on uncovering what is meaningful for me, some techniques are giving me insights and helping me be creative in my imagining.
- My Journal — For more than 30 years I have kept a journal. It holds many daily observations about what has been important in my life. Sometimes there are large gaps when life was too difficult for regular writing. Sometimes the entries are weekly or monthly. As I look back over the years, the journal puts me in touch with those values that have endured for me — justice, fairness, love. It also recounts experiences of hurt and pain. As I re-read entries from many years ago I also remember how difficult it was to express true emotions. Now I write the journal entries more often and use the lines to prepare myself for changes that I want to make and to write about what I deemed impossible only a short time ago. I also use the journal to explore private thoughts that I might develop into blog posts.
- Childhood recollections — Childhood was a time of greater freedom of thought and expression where those impossible dreams allpossible. Too often a child’s imagination is thwrated by a ‘helpful’ adult who discourages the dreams. My father was a dreamer and he encouraged my imagination. This ended abruptly when my father died of a heart attack when I was 12 years old. Suddenly I faced a different world — a world without dreams as my practical mother had no time for dreams. The sudden death made me expect life to be unfair with constant worries that calamity was just around the corner. It has taken years for me to conquer this unrealistic fear and to dare to dream again.
- My pre-retirement ‘bucket list’ — Most boomers have created a list of things they want to do before life makes the dreams impossible. Pre-retirement counsellors encourage this task. I have several bucket lists in various categories: learning, hobbies, living environment, relationships, activities, and travel. Sometimes I have the urge to quickly get things crossed off the lists. Sometimes I look at the lists and laugh because the items put there five years ago no longer hold interest. Some entries stand out and these are springboards that allow my mind to wander imaging what I can experience, unconsciously preparing myself and making concrete plans.
- Recollections of night-time dreams — For many years I did not dream during the night. Or so I thought. Since retirement I have slept more deeply and usually for 7 or 8 hours every night. Remarkably, dreams are happening again. Sometimes the dreams are vivid with wild adventures and with people who I have not met for years appearing to remind me of times past. I am learning to keep a notepad on my bedside table to record dream memories when I wake as I find that I forget the dreams quickly once my conscious mind takes over to control the day.
- Conversations — Some people are able to think more clearly when they talk with others. Although I am private about my dreams and wishes, there are some people who help me to explore the inner longings and who help me to dream bigger dreams. My husband is one of the people who is willing to explore and imagine with me and we often play ‘what if’ while we have dinner or while we drive long distances. Conversations with my son keep my thoughts ‘youth oriented’ and help me to combat imagined barriers of being too old to realize my dreams. A few close friends talk to me about their aspirations and fantasies. These conversations allow me to indulge my wilder thinking. Sometimes conversations with total strangers can lead to unexpected insights that inspire new dreams or stoke old memories. I try to recall these ‘ah ha’ moments when writing my journal so that I can explore and use the thoughts as I do my own creative imagining.
Living your Perfect Retirement
When you imagine what your life could be like you start an unconscious process to prepare yourself for changes you can make to live your perfect retirement. This unconscious process is the beginning of new happenings for you. It helps you live for the longer term and helps you live for today. When Lennon sang “You may say I’m a dreamer — but I’m not the only one” he may have referred to bigger dreams for world peace. The song speaks at many levels including the personal. I will do as Lennon wrote and ‘imagine’ as I seek to find my own perfect retirement.
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Picture courtesy of Zugaldia’s photostream.