Retirement Vertigo

The other day, I was minding my own business when I realized I didn’t know what day it was. I tried searching my mind for a marker of some kind to help me establish what part of the week I was in. As I did, I felt a bit dizzy and disoriented. This only lasted a few seconds until I was able to land on my chronological feet and realize that it was Tuesday.

The only reason I even remember this momentary experience is what popped into my mind as it happened. For some reason, the term, “retirement vertigo,” invaded my brain. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase anywhere, so I’m guessing it’s original with me. There’s nothing like coining a phrase, I always say. I don’t know if it will ever catch on, but it sure described the moment for me.

Retirement is an odd thing. I keep pretty busy, but I do have a few free days here and there.  If I don’t have something on my calendar, I lose my bearings (and retirement vertigo sets in). Sometimes, it makes me wonder if retirement is even Biblical.

Biblical Retirement

As near as I can tell, retirement is only mentioned once in Scripture. In Numbers 8:25, the Levitical priests are told that “at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.” So, the only retirement mentioned in the Bible is a forced retirement. From my perspective, that amounts to early vertigo. Forced retirement these days is usually at least sixty-five and usually more often seventy or seventy-two.

For much of my life, I worked two jobs—just crazy, I guess. I retired from one job when I was sixty-five. The other was a part time gig, so I hung in there with that one until I was sixty-eight. I’ve now been in full retirement mode for six months, and all is well—except for the occasional retirement vertigo.

I found that what most retirees say is true. “You have to do SOMETHING, or you’ll go crazy.” I had a backyard fence installed a couple months back by a guy who had retired a few years ago but returned to the business because he was bored out of his tree. Frankly, I can’t imagine that happening to me, but I’m lucky on that score because I write a lot.

Keeping Busy

I think the secret to a happy retirement is having just enough on your plate to keep you from becoming disinterested with your life. I always thought my Dad would hate retirement because he seemed like such a workaholic. It turns out that he enjoyed his last years immensely because he did just enough to keep himself busy.

So, I guess the rest of that Numbers passage is important, because it further instructs the priests that, “They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work” (V. 26). Sounds like a plan…

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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