The Benefits of an Unexpected Retirement Due to Illness

An early retirement can cause feelings of loss, but Laura reminds us, as with all changes, there are unexpected benefits and joys.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I officially retired one year ago. I explain that retirement chose me, rather than the other way around–as having a chronic illness forced the issue. After 23 years working as an elementary school counselor my body could not work day in and out.

It was an eventful year with ups and downs, both emotionally and physically. I realized recently, while seeing a former colleague at my favorite Starbuck’s that I am settling in to retirement. We talked about the kids and the joy it is to work with them, but she reminded me of the drudgery that sometimes comes with the other aspects of the job.

I wished her well and told her what a real blessing it was talking with her–and she said she needed to hear that message.

I began thinking there are real perks to retirement; even if I am not close to the “official” retirement age; most of the hairs on my head are red, rather than grey; and if I could, I would work. So I wanted to share a few of my observations of the positives I have discovered during the last year:

  • I don’t have to wear dress clothes and panty hose to work each day–although I do have a collection of Jobst stockings that most 49-year-olds don’t possess.
  • If I want to have a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast I do, with my Starbuck’s iced tea. You see, if I have the energy to drive to Starbuck’s, I can indulge once in awhile. I don’t have to attend events I don’t find too pleasurable or are too lengthy or difficult to get to.
  • I relish the relationships I have. It takes great effort to stay upright at times, so if I am with someone I find myself very present in the conversation. These moments bring happiness.
  • I have time to write and writing provides pure joy.
  • I have met many new people since being diagnosed with dysautonomia more than two years ago.
  • These include members of the HopeKeepers group I run; online people at both Rest Ministries and the support groups I belong to for dysatonomia: a dear friend I met through her relatives who shares my diagnosis; and people in my church community where I now volunteer as disability/chronic illness advocate. These are people I would never have met if I continued to work; nor would I have taken on these new roles as an advocate, HopeKeepers leader or Rest Ministries writer. I am convinced God had a plan for me and has more surprises in store.
  • I have increased exponentially my faith and relationship with the Lord. I always believed in God and was spiritual, but it is so much deeper. I could never walk this chronic illness journey without my faith, and for that I am ever thankful.

Life is difficult with a chronic illness, there are losses and sadness. But there are also joys and hopes. And in just one year of retirement a lot of changes have occurred.

Prayer: God, please bless me and strengthen me as I continue on My journey with chronic illness. Whether I am employed or unable to work, may I find joys in whatever I am capable of doing. Amen.

About the author:
Laura Seil Ruszczyk lives in New York with her husband and three children. She retired last year from a job of 23 years as an elementary school counselor. She is writing a book about dealing with dysautonomia, a neurological condition in which the autonomic nervous system malfunctions; affecting such things as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and temperature regulation.

If you have had to retire or give up your career, what have you found are some advantages of doing so?

This is Lincoln Brewster singing “Everlasting God” and you may know it from church if you have sung contemporary worship songs. They lyrics start with “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” I have sung this song many times, but as I saw those words today it hit me– as we wait upon the Lord strength will rise!

As Laura waits to see where God leads her, I expect she will find strength and the same strength is available for you and I. -Lisa