Poetic Reflections on Retirement

Poetic Reflections on Retirement

The unfolding of my life has always been held and reflected in the deep wisdom of poetry. From John O’Donohue’s For a New Beginning when I first had an inkling of retiring:

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

As I actually stepped foot in to the river of retirement, from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali:

I thought that my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of my power – that the path before me was closed, that provisions were exhausted and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.  And when old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.

And in the recent review of my mind-mapping about the experience of letting go of so many old identities, from the merciful lines in Hafiz’s My Sweet Crushed Angel:

You have not so badly, my dear…to have ever neared God’s heart at all.

So, now new poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer are guiding me still:

Twenty Years Ago, Ten Years Ago, Last Week

If I could go back in time
and offer advice to my younger self,
I wouldn’t.
I would let her fail all over again.
I’d let her falter. I’d let her lose.
I’d let her stumble
and struggle and bomb.
But I would lean in close
and let her know
I am deeply in love with her.
It’s so easy now to give her this,
this self-compassion in full bloom,
this thing she believed
was impossible.


So I can’t save the world—

can’t save even myself,

can’t wrap my arms around

every frightened child, can’t

foster peace among nations,

can’t bring love to all who

feel unlovable.

So I practice opening my heart

right here in this room and being gentle with my insufficiency. I practice walking down the street heart first. 

And if it is insufficient to share love, I will practice loving anyway. 

I want to converse about truth,

about trust. I want to invite compassion into every interaction. 

One willing heart can’t stop a war. 

One willing heart can’t feed all the hungry. 

And sometimes, daunted by a task too big, I tell myself what’s the use of trying? 

But today, the invitation is clear: 

to be ridiculously courageous in love. 

To open the heart like a lilac in May,

knowing freeze is possible

and opening anyway. 

To take love seriously. 

To give love wildly. 

To race up to the world

as if I were a puppy,

adoring and unjaded,

stumbling on my own exuberance. 

To feel the shock of indifference,

of anger, of cruelty, of fear,

and stay open. To love as if it matters, as if the world depends on it. 

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is a marvelous poet who gives voice to the most fundamental truths of the joys and sorrows of human existence. You can subscribe to a free poem in your email inbox every morning; you can visit the archive of many heart-opening poems on her website