One month from today is my birthday. I turn 59 this year. And then next year, of course, I’ll be sixty. (How did that happen?) February 26, 2017 will usher in a brand new decade for me, a hastening in the decline – already well underway – of what I’m both physically and sometimes mentally able to do. Certainly, a march toward death to be perfectly blunt about it.

Actually, though, I’m not one to rant and rave or opine – to no good outcome, in any case, so what would be the point? – about what is ultimately inevitable. Like many people my age and even older, I don’t feel ‘this old’. True, my body often conspires against those delights in which my heart and soul would otherwise love to partake. And sometimes, I say ‘body, be damned’ and I’ll go ahead and do what I want to anyway. Maybe not easily or elegantly or with grace. Certainly not without paying a price for it the next day (queue the Icy Hot and ibuprofen). The thing is, though, that is what’s cool about getting older. You don’t really care (as much anyway) about appearances as when you’re younger.

In any case, retirement becomes more of a focus. Most people in their fifties begin thinking about Life After Work and I’ve been no exception. But now, with the Big 6-0 only a year away, I’m starting to think more seriously than ever about what I want to do when I retire. I’ve posted on this topic before but today, with my 59th birthday one month away, the reality of this new stage of my life (yet to come) is now a little more clear, a little more urgent, a little more REAL. And this both terrifies and thrills me.

Being a Cradle Robber, I’m fortunate in that my husband will continue to work once I retire and therefore cover my health insurance needs until Medicare kicks in. I hope to acquire a little four legged friend with fur to accompany me on long walks and hikes and bike rides. I look forward to playing the role of Just a Housewife and welcoming Bill home from work with hot and healthy meals and the occasional dessert (those who know my husband are well aware of his almost unquenchable appetite for sweets so I’ll need to exercise some caution with my Adventures in Baking).

I’ll read. I’ll write. I’ll color. I’ll blog. I’ll have time to exercise and eat right. I’ll sleep in if I want to or get up while it’s still dark out and get my walk in for the day. Certainly, I’ll indulge my passion for photography. I’ll experiment in the kitchen and keep the house clean, uncluttered and organized. In the winter, I’ll crochet and in the summer I’ll ride my bike. I’ll probably even get a part-time job, both for a little mad money and to keep my social skills current and, hopefully, up to par. These are things that I’ll do – for me. And I’ll glory in the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want.

I’m not naïve or star struck enough to think retirement will be all rainbows and roses. Things Change.  Life Happens.  But whether I’m working or not, this would continue to be the case regardless. Time and having more of it to do as we please (as we march forward) is that currently elusive animal that I long for, that I crave. And just as I savor the joy of planning a vacation or a weekend getaway, so, too, do I eagerly anticipate the liberation of being daily accountable to an entity other than myself: Work. Sometimes gratifying (and the money is nice), work is no longer the be-all, end-all (if ever it really, truly was) of my existence, of what is ultimately most important to me, to my life, to our marriage. Knowing that I plan to retire in the not so distant future makes it easier to deal with the sometime frustration of meetings, deadlines and difficult co-workers. Because now I know that work really is just a means to an end. We all need money to pay the bills (and plan for our retirements!) Work can also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. All well and good. But the allure has begun to tarnish and I now seek other avenues of pride, pleasure, fulfillment and release.

With anything in life, there are no guarantees. For all my planning and daydreaming and list-making, the longed-for freedom to live a fulfilling life after retirement may not transpire. Sickness, disability, financial burdens, family emergencies can easily wreak havoc on my future in one fell swoop and swiftly (and oh, so cruelly) undo all that I’ve hoped for. So while I’m able to, I’ll continue to chart my path toward that which I covet and nurture my spirit as best I can to deal with whatever comes my way. I’m incredibly blessed and fortunate to have a husband who loves and cherishes me and we are both in fairly good health. Financially – for now, so long as the market cooperates! – we’re in a good place. All we can do is plan for our future and hope for the best.

Full speed ahead!