LCHM Summer 2017 - 25
L C M E D S O C .O R G
THE DICTIONARY DEFINITION OF "RETIRE "
MEANS TO REST, TO GO TO SLEEP, TO QUIT.
old identity, but also redefine your life and
establish a second identity. Or even a third or
fourth. I think of retirement in concrete terms.
In other words, it is literally an opportunity
to "re-tire".....or get new tires. That same old
reliable car, with the 90,000 miles with the
dents and clicks and clacks, will get you there,
but it's always a good idea to put on new tires
once in a while. Physicians are no different,
except that we have to release ourselves from a
solution-oriented life of giving and embrace a
new life of receiving. This means reconnecting
with family and friends, some old, some new.
It also means that it is time to develop
new interests and dust off former hobbies. I
discovered birding, honed my yoga and piano
skills, and started taking adult learning classes.
I even joined a "ROMEO" book club (that
stands for "Retired Old Men Eating Out").
In addition, I usually have an extra project
to do: cleaning the basement, organizing my
letters and mementos into a scrapbook, or
teaching a course to life-long learners about
"Aging Well." I am no expert at retiring, but I
know that we in this early 21st century have
an incredible gift. Our grandparents never
retired. They worked their entire lives. But
we, who have the luxury of living longer, have
a unique opportunity to reinvent out lives.
Some choose never to retire and that's ok too.
Work for them provides constant physical and
intellectual stimulation that never results in
burnout. But this final stretch of life, even if
it is racked by losses and disability, may be the
ultimate do-over. In fact, I am often amazed
how much some people can accomplish with
a myriad of chronic diseases, widowhood, and
tragedy. I see the volunteers, the adult learners,
the golfers, the bridge players. I have friends
who have endured staggering physical illness
and loss of family and other loved ones. Yet,
they keep going like the proverbial Energizer
bunnies. You CAN make lemonade from
lemons. But first, you need to get off the couch.
Retired doctors, in particular, must really
work harder to develop a new "you." I still love
pointing out to my wife the total strangers
who have physical signs of Acromegaly, Grave's
Disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Chronic
Heart Failure. Ok, I know that's a little weird.
My Internal Medicine reflexes are still alive
and well. I am still a "doc."
I will never lose the memories of making
a difference in my patients' lives; I will forever
cherish the warmth and collegiality with my
physician friends. I will savor the letters and
accolades, the loyalty of my employees, and the
thrill of making the right diagnosis.
But I want to save all of that for my dreams.
For now, this "Doc" is driving with brand
Too optimistic? Maybe. A retired physician has
the genuine opportunity to make a difference in
so many ways, and at the same time, participate
in a world that can be fascinating and even fun.
I will end with a personal anecdote. I was
taking care of a 103-year-old woman in the
hospital with multiple medical problems. She
was quite alert and intelligent, but she was
extremely anxious and depressed. I asked her
what was it that she was so nervous about.
I simply could not understand why, at her
advanced age, she could not relax, enjoy
the simple things in life, enjoy her family
and "go with the flow." She answered, "I'm
worried about my future." I was speechless,
thinking to myself, "There is no future."
Surprise! This..... is...... the..... future.
We are living the future now.
The dictionary definition of "Retire"
means "to rest," "to go to sleep," "to quit."
I'd rather "re-tire," put on those new tires,
give them a good kick, check the treads,
and hit the road.
SUMMER 2017 | Lehigh County Health & Medicine 25