Creating a Meaningful Life in the Seventh Decade
Please enjoy this article I wrote that was published in the July 2018 edition of the Jewish Federation of NH's monthly newsletter. Click on THIS LINK to read it on-line - - - page 13. Or you can simply read my copy here. Food for thought...
I am a local NH resident and Jewish community member. My name is Rahel Limor and I have taken a bold and life-changing step. At age 63 I realized that "we ain't gettin' any younger". The kids have all grown and are enjoying their independent lives. There are no grandchildren yet. As life would have it I had the sudden revelation that I had been spending many long hours sitting around the house alone in my living room with just my cat. At times even, the sound of my own voice startled me. Friends were busy or struggling with the onset of sudden illness. Sandwiched between caring for their own elderly parents, spouses, still-dependent or unemployed children and/or looking after grandchildren many were simply unavailable. Work was dwindling as was my social network. Social media can only satisfy you for so long. The 7th decade of life was beginning to show hints of what it means to grow older.
"Who will know if something happens to me at home? Should I apply for a lifeline buzzer in case of emergency? Have I reached that stage of life," I pondered? "Perhaps it's time for a roommate again? Is this what I have to look forward to?"
My work as a Certified Clinical Musician (CCM) granted me glimpses into the aging process, the challenges of living with chronic and debilitating illness, and of the inevitable end-of-life scenario. I was witnessing the isolation that comes with the loss of beloved family members and close friends.
The most dangerous aspects of growing old are 1) feeling your life has become meaningless and that you are of no use anymore and 2) isolation. It seemed that I was suddenly sinking into a desperate situation and that it was solely up to me to create and uphold a meaningful life. This was tantamount to staying healthy, happy and to longevity. “Stay useful! That is the key!” I silently proclaimed.
Those who know me know that I am not one to give in to idleness. I usually have no problem finding ways to be useful. My career in music always provides, never failing to open doors to interesting events and to meeting amazing people. Yet when the gigs are done and I return home to an empty house the reality of my circumstance hits hard. There was one ingredient that I had apparently overlooked. Isolation.
It took some time to come to the decision. My children had been urging me to make changes for a few years already. “Why are you just sitting around by yourself? Get out and enjoy life. Just get up and go already, Mom. Go on the adventure you’ve been dreaming about for years already!” they nudged. I knew they were right but even the thought of such an endeavor was overwhelming. Life had become at least comfortable and secure. Why upset things now?
It took three long years of profound self-reflection, wishy-washy reasoning and confidence building support. Finally, in November of 2017 I boldly decided to sell my home. I cleared out the majority of my belongings to the bare essentials and am storing them in a rented climate-controlled storage unit. I had a few destinations in mind but decided to set out to wherever the wind would blow me. It wouldn’t be the first time. After all, I have fond memories of those free-wheeling hippie days thumbing around Canada and Europe in the 1970’s.
I had lived in Israel for twenty-two years experiencing world cultures at my fingertips. In all honesty I was longing for another chance to feel that ultimate sense of freedom again and to live in and among diverse cultures, populations and countries.
The time had finally come. I was going. But wait. I realized that, “Hey, I’m not twenty anymore.” This adventure would have to be different. Indeed, the times were now different and offered a variety of possibilities to travelers. Rather than thumbing I would be flying and using public transportation of all kinds. Rather than camping, this time I have plans to stay for longer stints in proper accommodations such as Airbnb (bed & breakfast rentals). I surfed the web and learned about programs that offer room and board in return for volunteer work. I have friends in choice countries who have offered to receive me for limited and even unlimited visits! I researched the travel blogs, purchased the suggested necessities, including a good travel medical insurance plan, and in March set off to start a new life as a nomad. Will the nomadic life provide for and satisfy the feelings of uselessness and isolation? Where will my travels take me? Will I settle down again at some point and if so, where?
Reaching the seventh decade of life seems to creep up and hit us suddenly as if we never saw it coming. We’ve all heard those wise words of wisdom imparted upon us by the elders, “if you have your health you have everything”. This could not be a truer statement. Get out and live fully as much as you can. Be inspired by those who have overcome even the worst physical challenges and who go on to create useful and meaningful lives because of it. Life is meant to be lived no matter what age and circumstance. Just go!
Rahel Limor is a 64-yr. old Jewish Performing Songwriter, Certified Clinical Musician (CCM), Educator and mother of two independent and talented young adults. Her music is uplifting, intelligent, well-crafted and musically sophisticated. It has served as her guide a she lives her life. Rahel is currently enjoying life on-the-road as a world traveler. Follow her BLOG called “Just Go! A Travel Diary for the 7th Decade of Life.” At: https://justgorahel.blogspot.com/