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  • Writer's pictureM. Linda Graham

Attestupa, Soylent Green & Retirement Nightmares Retirement Date #728

“Ättestupa (Scandinavian for 'kin/clan precipice') … The name supposedly denotes sites where ritual senicide took place during Nordic prehistoric times, whereby elderly people threw themselves, or were thrown, to their deaths. According to legend, this was done when old people were unable to support themselves or assist in a household.” [Wikipedia]

“Soylent Green is a 1973 American ecological dystopian thriller film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, and Edward G. Robinson” [Wikipedia] Note: It’s set in 2022

The other night I had a dream that spoke to a fundamental fear: now that I’m retired, I’m useless - a pleasant but pointless person.

In the dream I am wearing a crisp, contemporary white suit. One of my former colleagues agrees to “help me on my way.” Because I am no longer working for Hope College, she is taking me out to a location where I’ll be “put down.” In my dream I am agreeable to this, as I no longer serve a useful purpose, and don’t want to be a burden. We arrive at the location. The prior casualty, a cow, has been melted into a greasy blob. The same fate awaits me. I am not afraid.

I ask if I may go to the restroom. Everything is calm and amicable- of course I may go. I go to the restroom and suddenly freak out: What am I doing? What have I agreed to? I want to LIVE! I escape through a window, making for the other side of campus to hide. Along the way I bump into several more colleagues- one who is disappointed with my decision to live but congenial “oooh, it’s ok, I guess, for you to change your mind” and another “wow! I heard! Well, to each his own.”

When I awoke, I kept repeating to myself the dream’s revelation: “I don’t live for Hope College, I don’t live for work; I live to live – I want to live! I want to be here for my children, my husband, I love living.” I further realized that I agreed to being “put down” because deep down, in my gut, is this nagging belief that my value and worthiness as a human is based on my ability to work AND EARN MONEY – that recognition piece was important- not only must I work to be of value, but that work must be recognized by others as valuable- and the recognition must come in the form of compensation $$$.

I was raised with a strong work ethic layered with an expectation of accomplishment. Somehow this became ingrained with how much money I earned as a measure of my worthiness. In retirement, I cognitively know that “not earning a paycheck” does not lessen my value or worthiness as a human being. I have a purpose. But my insecure gut preaches a different gospel, insidiously whispering you grifter - you shimmied your way through life earning a paycheck doing something whose value is questionable, and now you’re not doing anything you can even pretend is useful because you’re not being paid; you just occupy space, you’re no longer useful to others, your questionable value is all used up; it’s time to make room for someone who IS useful. Hasta la vista, bebeSoylent Green time!

Me: I am worthy. I want to LIVE.

Then, my subconscious helped me escape through a bathroom window.

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