Millennia ago, around 2010, a contemporary whispered to me these sweet words "And you, is retirement coming soon?"
I remained silent. Retirement? What were we talking about? A spirito/New Age seminar for executives? A Napoleonic fresco? No, he insisted, with a sorry look on his face, TA retreat: that moment we all desire, that Grail, where "we will finally enjoy ourselves". No more work. And to detail a paradisiacal existence devoted to golf, bridge and travel - in sunny countries, but well provided for in terms of health. Only four more years, he savored, and maybe less with a PSE, hopefully sooner. It's true that his current life, well his whole person, had never made me dream! But there, I was simply light years away from his best of worlds.
Yes, working differently appealed to me, working on subjects that interest me more than just my employer's quarterly sales results or the subtleties of web marketing. Yes, it was titillating: mainly because these subjects that delighted other people - and that's quite honourable - didn't thrill me, and had fallen on me, without my looking for them, without my feeling concerned, at the chance of a good student's career. But this did not justify a social desertion! Nor to consider a retirement, a "Game over" if you prefer.
Then, a headhunter came back a few moments later: "With 3 children, a career start at 20 years old, you have all your trimesters, do you really want to continue working? Yes, precisely, because I have children, because I like to create, imagine, learn, discover, bring out, innovate, change, transform, know, meet! And what the hell, I was 55 years old, in great shape, with a sharp mind, a mass of knowledge, an incredible power of efficient work, and experience, and awareness in addition, I was at the best of my professional existence, and capable of doing everything, super well!
To the shelters, if you want, young exhausted retirees, not me! Yes, I could stop, but I don't really want to. So, retirement, until what age do you say we can hang on? 70. That's fine. And after that, I'll continue as an independent. No worries.
And I saw my colleagues retire, and never come back: swallowed up in their status of rightly "retired". Some of them had the desire to work as consultants, but then they didn't have the time, the energy, the networks, or the knowledge. In short, Exit.
It gave me a chill, this consensual exclusion. Retirement was not for me.
One day in 2014, I had a serious health issue, which resulted in paraplegia, nine months in the hospital, three years of long-term illness.
A nine-month confinement in hospital, handicapped, experiencing physical and social dependence, the strange and complex status of a patient, and the protective devotion of the caregivers. And then, two more years of long illness and gradual return to civilian life. And finally, the legal end of these three years of long-term illness, at the end of which my employer contacted me very correctly:
What did I want to do, come back with all the possible accommodations for my disability, or take that retirement to which I was entitled? I didn't like the idea of coming back to work, now that I was far from being physically fit. I like knowing that I am efficient and independent. To have full access, with the minimum of constraints. To be in a place that suits me.
I chose to retire. Without regret, freely, serenely, then, turned the page. In 2017.
But, above all, I decided to make a total professional turn, to realize the dream of my 18 years, to become a writer and a speaker. And let's just say that it didn't work out too badly for me.
As far as social links are concerned, I have even gone into overdrive, and I have been able, while respecting my rhythm of life and my health constraints, to find a power of work and creation that suits me and brings me a great deal of happiness and, I hope, a real social utility.
To become a writer, thus realizing the forgotten desire of my 18 years. And to make my book "Le roseau penchant " the basis of speeches on more universal themes such as resilience, hardship, the meaning to give to one's life, self-respect and self-love, the alignment of heart, body and mind with others, and their sharing on the occasion of great inspirational occasions such as a TEDx, the ReStartAwards, Eklore's "Debout Citoyennes", and Diversidays among others.
Until then, all is well, all is well. Until March 17, 2020.
I am 65 years old. I had joined at the beginning of March, as planned for a long time, my residence of Charentes Maritimes, where I am in confinement, like many thirty-year-olds, and with them also, because I believe unconscious to take risks of contagion and to make others take some. I strictly respect the confinement like everyone else, and I contribute virtually as much as I can.
I know what I am doing, I am attentive, vigilant and a citizen.
And then came this p.... of debate: "our elders":
Nice, yes, I'm worried about my 95 year old aunt who I adore.
Oh no, Anne Marie told me, it's you, it's us, at least 50 years old for the men, 60 years old for the women, the elders, put aside, almost locked up in their room like the residents of the EPADH. I'm coming out of the closet! With and like Anne-Marie, Claude, Muriel, Laurence, Martine, Christine and many others. We all agree with Jacques, Jean François, Philippe, Pierre and Paul.
Especially since I was surrounded by younger people, they also wanted me to do everything right and did not see the problem: "First of all, you are not going to take any risks". For them, knowing that I am confined indefinitely, it almost reassures them! I stammer that, since a long time, I know perfectly well how to manage that without your help or your opinion, thank you! And then, it gets out of hand: "the old" - that's it, we don't talk about seniors anymore -, "it catches everything, and then, it goes to the hospital or it's contagious". And the hospital is saturated, it is expensive, the caregivers are exhausted. So shut up, old people!
Well, I'm simplifying a bit, but still!
But it scares me, a society where they decide for me, where I'm going to live, when I'm going to go out, my freedom of movement, my rights, my freedom, my inalienable right to decide for myself. And this because I was born in 1955, while I am perfectly healthy of body and mind. Finally, as much as they and you, no more, no less!
And frankly, if I'm scared, you should all be scared too, because if it starts with us, with the alienation of our freedom, that's not a good sign.
Not a good sign for all minorities, with needs for help, sometimes specific, that will be assessed, budgeted, and then decided for them what to do and if to allocate. If they submit to the norms. Not to the Law, but to the rule of caste. Not a good sign for democracy, not a good sign for freedom, not a good sign for fraternity, not a good sign for equality!
Yes, I know: you only want good things for us. But above all, respect our right to self-determination, our right to live and die as we wish, where we wish.
And let's be clear, don't ever expect me to be neatly tucked away in a corner, isolated like Suzanne in your nursing home! Don't expect me to stay plugged in until I die, because your protocol allows and forces me to do so. Don't expect me to be unplugged either, because you think I've done my time and that my life is no longer worth living. I retain my right to decide! Old or not, disabled or not, I am free! And I intend to stay that way.
And this eventuality has caused such an outcry that in the end, to us over 60 years old, it has been preserved our equal rights to those of all and recognized our discernment to dispose of ourselves.
We must remain vigilant and take advantage of this crisis, and this rise of anxiety, to advance and re-anchor the place and importance of the human being and his rights from his first day to his last. This is a human, existential crisis, and the opportunities are a real possibility to move the lines of tomorrow's world towards a better humanity.
But let's take advantage of it to push the stopper of the living together and the conviviality a hair further:
If you have a handicapped or elderly or fragile person in your entourage, the trick is not to park them in an isolated corner, where they do not disturb you, far from you, and under a plaid, reducing them to silence or to the absence of connection and attention, exiled, ostracized.
No, the trick is to look her in the eyes, to listen and hear her, to ask what she needs, to take her hand, in ordinary times. And without respite, to help her to dare, to feel, to give her the taste of living, to integrate her, to respect her and to help her to get out of any prison - the one of a body, the one of the mind, the one of social exclusion, of loneliness -.
And to support it, with lightness and heart, by installing it, in your midst, as the king or queen they never stopped being, and that you had just forgotten to consider.
In the name of fear, the fear of the other, the fear of loving, the fear of helping, the fear of suffering, the fear of being touched, the fear of being contaminated, the fear of dying that make us freeze ourselves to the other, and close our eyes not to feel and not to give our heart. To put an opaque veil on the mirror where this other is reflected and inflicts us our finitude. And giving in to this intense and insidious fear makes us leave the bench of civilized humans to join a cohort of beings on the run, emotionally confined, absent from the essence of humanity.
Instead of living together and sharing together the good and the difficult.
Certainly by acting as a helper, that basic contract of otherness, the existential minimum, and above all by leading us in loving, that ultimate stage of humanity.