J S Ellington

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Finding Your Passion

Apr 4, 2017

Receiving the Gift

I was a pharmacist for 37 years. It was hard, stressful work, and I couldn't wait to retire. I counted the months. "When I am retired," I told myself, "I won't have to wake up early anymore. I won't have to be on a schedule. I can do anything I want to." 

The truth is that retirement landed me in a reality where my long-time identity was erased. I know women go through that when they experience the empty-nest syndrome after the kids leave home.

I had always been a magnet for injured, orphaned, and abandoned animals. Now, without a job, the strength of that magnet increased. I still had to get up early. I still had to be on a schedule. I was too busy to do "anything I want to!"

At one point, we had 11 dogs, and we had sold our house and were living our romantic dream of living in an RV. I don't recommend that. Yes, we saved money on housing, but animals in need generate a lot of veterinarian expense. Especially, being dumped tends to create fear and mistrust that make animals hard to approach and help. By the time they can be wooed into trusting, they are often emaciated, injured, etc. There were also some aggression issues, and we tried to bring all the ones we could into the RV with us due to frequent extreme weather conditions. 

You might guess that animal rescue was a passion for me. I am sorry to tell you that it was a compulsion instead. Instead of bringing me joy, it made me sad for the ones I couldn't save, and it depleted us financially.

I think I began to get a little depressed, though I didn't really recognize it. I must have told my husband 100 times during that first year after retirement that I was desperate for a passion, a reason for getting up in the morning that didn't involve saving an animal or solving a problem.

As the months clicked by, I got even more lost. My health started to go south. I felt pretty isolated because we had moved me and the dogs to a property we had bought in the country near Abilene, Texas, but we had no luck getting my husband's business started here. He had to stay in Midland, where he was in demand, and work. He commuted to our place near Abilene on the weekends. I began to feel that I was just waiting to die.

The idea of a passion kept coming up in me. I kept telling my husband how much I needed that, hoping maybe he knew what I was supposed to be doing with my time. He didn't.

I finally decided that it was critical for me not to give in to the feeling of being lost. I started to review the possibilities by looking back at creative things I had done. I had painted all of my life, but I never gave it much attention or time. I couldn't imagine that would be my "calling." Nevertheless, I knew I had to take a step--to try something. I decided to take an art class. After the first painting, I was hooked! 

It turned out that the time the class was held was not convenient for me, so I just continued to paint on my own. I have never looked back. My art pursuit has given me my passion. It has given me a wonderful community of other artists to pal with and enjoy. Art gives me a new way to connect with other people.

Every painting I complete, especially abstract works, is "free" therapy for me. Each one brings some kind of mini satori.

Why am I sharing all of this? Because, I know this is a common problem. People often die soon after retirement, I think because they "let" their loss of identity convince them that life is over for them.

I won't pretend to try to tell you how to find your passion, but I am convinced there is a pursuit for you that will qualify. You are the only one who can find it, and you have to start somewhere. Don't spend as much time as I did bemoaning the fact that you haven't found it.

If you haven't found your passion, start looking for it. Take a step. That step may lead you directly there or it may lead to another step that leads you to it. Don't stop until you find it. I am convinced that your passion is looking for you!

 


passion abstract therapy community connection people rescue dogs empty nest syndrome identity loss

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