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by Donna Bennett
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Later-Life Decisions: Questions and Answers

"...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 
in Letters to a Young Poet.

Later-life choices for our parents and grandparents were limited and predictable; their decisions often made for them, their questions often answered before asked.

Today, our choices for later life are the opposite. We must plan and choose carefully to sustain our quality of life over a much longer period of time. We are faced with questions to which the answers do not easily fall into a 'one-size-fits all' category.

The task before us may be the most daunting of our lives, as the unknowns far outweigh what is known.

Where do we begin? How do we make the task less daunting? Perhaps, the answer lies in Rilke's advice. That is, answer the questions that can be answered, and let the remaining questions evolve.

What are your burning questions? Sort out those you can answer quickly, while also giving notice to those that need more research (e.g., finances, where to live, health care). Then allow the remaining questions to 'live' in you. Questions such as:

How will I spend my time?
How can I find purpose and give meaning to my life?
How should I use my strengths, gifts and experience?
What are my options? My opportunities?

This requires an openness to exploring all that comes your way, without judgment, with trust, wonder, creativity, vulnerability and patience!

Allow space for ideas to grow, and give them time to mull. Some will come and go, some will be tossed around and tossed out, and others can be tucked away for a later look. Bring a trusted friend into this place. Someone who will listen and absorb along with you until, at a time you least expect it, you will be rewarded with an "AHA"! AHAs are more likely to show themselves when not pushed and prodded. They come from the whole of you - your past, present and also your future.

And so, I beg you...let your later life decisions evolve from answers that surprise you rather than questions that challenge you.

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