Lately I have been thinking a lot about inspiration as I consider the retirement years ahead. The word “inspire” comes from a Latin root that means “to breathe or blow into” and so it translates as “the act of filling someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.”
(For the purpose of this writing, I am only thinking about the positive, creative ways that people are inspired, not the malignant rhetoric that inspires hate-fueled destruction.)
It’s not every day that we feel the breath of some force or spirit filling us with the urge to do or feel something, but since retirement, I have found that finding and encountering inspiration has become a vital part of my life in a way that it hasn’t since I was in high school.
Back then, I copied down (in green ink!) quotations, poetry, and song lyrics in spiral-bound notebooks that I called my “poetry books”. They include poetry by Edith St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, e e cummings, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, to name but a few; song lyrics by the Moody Blues, Carole King (the “Adele” of my teenage years), Bernie Taupin, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and others, and quotes from a variety of sources. There is a scattering of my own poetry as well as that of friends and even the occasional boyfriend.
Whether it was “My candle burns at both ends” or “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye”, I drew comfort and inspiration from lyricists, poets, philosophers, and my friends. Often it wasn’t about being pushed towards a creative act but being blown towards understanding and coping with the agony and the ecstasy of teenage life.
These poetry books became diaries, signaling through the words of others what was inspiring me at that specific point in time.
I turn a page and realize this is when my brother and I visited my grandparents’ home for the last time before they sold it….
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.
another page and verses on friendship appear, reinforcing my growing need for the lifelines of genuine girlfriends…
I’ve saved some sunlight if you should ever need a place away from darkness.
yet another page and the joy of first love illuminates my delirious free fall…
We need no words, we are complete.
followed by the heartache when that love was over…
I only know that summer sang in me/a little while that in me sings no more.
and then, after a soul-nourishing weekend with best friends…
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.
Nowadays I find inspiration wherever I can. I no longer fill spiral-bound notebooks but keep digital files on my phone and on my laptop of poems, quotes, and lyrics that blow through and breathe their magic to me.
I think the world needs a boatload of inspiration these days, especially for those under the age of 30, whom I find are desperately searching for meaning in their lives, and whose hearts are wide and receptive to enormous bursts blowing into their souls. I pray that the right kind of breezes blow their way.
As I contemplate and envision this last third of my life, I want to be open to the winds of inspiration, whether they blow as gentle breezes or turbulent gales. I have the luxury of figuring things out as I go, but there is still the temptation to make plans and set goals (those work habits die hard). So, as I continue my journey towards living a meaningful life in retirement, I find inspiration in these lines…
…Allow your heart to beat, allow yourself to be loved, allow fate to take its course. There are lovely days on this earth. Anne Morrow Lindbergh
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that’s all. Oscar Wilde