I get messages from Dr. Janeta Tansey, MD, PhD at Virtue Medicine announcing the focus of the monthly Finding Meaning in Medicine meetings for physicians. Each meeting is guided by a pre-assigned one word topic. I have never attended a meeting but the topic for May is “Fare-Well.”
What struck me about the topic is the meaning offered for the word “Fare,” which turns out to be derived from the Old English “faran,” and it means “to journey.” This immediately made me think about my retirement. I’ve often thought of phased retirement as a sort of long goodbye, fitting with the idea of leaving something behind, escaping even.
But leaving what and going where? I don’t mind saying I struggle sometimes with a fear of losing my identity, which for decades has been that of a physician. And I’m always reading that the best thing for a retiree to do is to retire to something, rather than from something.
So it makes sense to think of Farewell not as “goodbye” but as a journey. But what could it mean to journey well? It probably doesn’t just mean a good journey, for that could be many different things to different people.
Retirement conjures up some pretty scary impressions for me sometimes. Getting rid of the old is one idea that arises. Old patterns, memories, practices, habits, and the like often die hard. It’s sort of like the old bird’s nest in our crab apple tree that I was not even aware of until yesterday. At first, before I got a good look at it, I thought the strands of old grass hanging in in view was evidence for a new nest because some Robins were rustling around in the branches and being generally pretty noisy and hard at work.
But I was surprised to see the nest just hanging on the edge of a crotch of branches. For the Robins to labor so much, the nest must have been really stuck fast in there.
So there you have it–I feel like an old bird’s nest, covered with mud and poop and just hanging on while I’m being pecked and pushed out of the tree. I’m only half kidding.
“What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”–Lao Tzu.
My journey as a physician has felt long and I admit I’ve been thinking of retirement as being sort of the end of the journey. I thought about this when I went for my now usual walk along the Clear Creek Trail. I generally stick to the paved path, but I see dirt trails and in some places, no trails–just tall grass.
I saw a groundhog way up in a tree. Cooling off? Considering trying to fly? I don’t think it was Chuckie. If it was, then Chuckie sure gets around. At least, if it’s him, he’s not eating our grass.
I’m out in the garden with Sena a bit more. And I’m certainly mowing the lawn more nowadays. I notice the flowers more often. And I take grainy snapshots of birds, which I get pretty excited about.
I’m just not sure where this new journey will take me or what it will mean to fare well on it–yet.