Today is 111 and if I count correctly, 376 days have passed since I retired. Lately, I’ve fired up more than a few cranial neurons silently musing about the journey. I’m here now in this January 2019 edition of my monthly blog to share with you: 1) what I’ve learned 2) discuss the broad spectrum of my feelings then and now; and ponder 3) did I do the right thing? I know for certain that I am not alone in this journey and perhaps readers will see themselves in the circumstances chronicled below.
As I look back, I consciously spent 365 days prior to retirement completely focused on my career and putting my heart and soul into it because I knew the days were numbered. I didn’t neglect family or things I loved to do, but I wanted to make sure that I savored every last minute of a job that I loved and to which I devoted myself for almost 30 years.
Sure, I had plenty of second thoughts about retiring and I carried a foreshadowing of emotional ups and downs that might materialize. It turns out that my trepidation concerning the after effects of retirement would pan out. More on that.
So, if the year 2017 was spent savoring final days at work, what was 2018 devoted to? It was completely devoted to adjusting to retirement, and allowing myself grace and space to feel all the feelings and to apply “EASY DOES IT.” I gave myself a year for this adjustment and anticipated that 2019 would find me in fuller embrace and acceptance of this new life, moving forward and checking things off my bucket list (Alaska Cruise here I come!)
There were other goals I set for retirement that I happily checked off my to-do list:
1 Take up a musical instrument (done! ukulele madness has swept me up into a whole new world of learning and challenge. I asked for it and I certainly got it in one little innocent, unassuming instrument).
2 Ramp up an exercise routine, add more cardio, lose five pounds (done! My retirement community has tons of physical fitness classes and I take advantage).
3 Meet new people (done! I’ve been meeting new people right and left and one particular encounter stands out. One morning I said hello to a stranger next to me in yoga class and we chatted it up as if we had known each other for years. As we exited class together, still chatting, we learned that we had another thing in common: blogging. Meet Donna: Http://Www.retirementreflections.com. Donna was vacationing in our community and resides in another country; so, sadly we had only one chance to get together for tea, and once again we chatted up a storm. Donna shared her experience and wisdom with me as it related to the world of blogging. She was supportive and inspiring, and although she was a spark in my life that ignited for a short bit and then left, her warmth and kindness still linger).
Goals not met : study a foreign language. There’s only so much one can squeeze into a day and at least this goal gives me something to strive for and feel excited about. My retired friends have recommended a site called http://www.duolingo.com so it is still my intent to browse that page!
Prior to retirement, I loved my life; I had the best of all worlds – a stimulating and fulfilling career, a devoted and faithful husband, 3 adult children and 8 grandkids near by. I flew back and forth to see my husband who had retired in 2011 to the Coachella Valley of Southern California, an eight hour drive away! I stayed mostly in Northern California to finish out my career and be near my Mother and grandkids. My hubby and I had a long distance relationship which actually invigorated our 3-decade plus marriage. Each time I arrived in the desert for an extended weekend, he had a lovely bouquet of flowers set out for me. Life was great, and as I look back I realize that I could have blogged about what it was like for a happily married couple to live apart from each other for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS!
Yet, I looked reality in the face and acknowledged that my husband and I were aging and time was not on our side; so, I decided to retire while I was still relatively young in order to have more quality time with him and the grandkids.
What I feared about life post career was not having the intense daily focus of somewhere to go and something to do; having daily interchange with work companions whom I not only respected but loved. I knew something about myself, and it was this: I liked waking up to a day that got my blood and adrenaline flowing. And my job did that for me. Yet, the commute began to feel oppressive and I wanted to have freedom to help out family. Sometimes I would be asked to babysit on a weekday morning which required rising at 4:30am, feeding and getting off to school three grandkids, and then race off to join all the other thousands of commuters inching along in gridlock traffic. In retirement, I could get up early to babysit (no problem), but the stress of getting myself to work would be eliminated. That definitely felt right to me :-).
In the six weeks post retirement I felt a freedom and euphoria as if I had landed in a new spectacular country:
I was like a kid again and the world was my oyster!
What happened next? After the savory, delicious honeymoon phase, the euphoria wore off and I found myself in NorCal sitting in my apartment alone one day. I was still flying back and forth alternately seeing my husband in SoCal and returning to NoCal to help my Mother and grandkids. Just how I liked my life – on the move. So, what was missing? I sat quietly and scanned my emotional landscape and realized that I was missing the steady companionship I enjoyed at work. I now had vacant hours; whereas, my days before were filled with a dependable routine, purpose, tasks, and deadlines which kept me on my toes. Of course it was up to me to break out of any isolation and reach out to others and I did so. I also had to think about whether I should give up my NorCal apartment and join my husband full time; I certainly wouldn’t lack for companionship if I went this route…. so stay tuned! 🙂
It turns out that wildly fluctuating emotions that wrap themselves tightly around the issue of retirement are completely normal. Researchers who study other life changing events such as marriage or divorce, had not applied the same exploratory zeal to the subject of retirement. They are just beginning to treat retirement with the respect it deserves and explore its emotional and psychological terrain. There’s no getting around it – retirement is a HUGE, MAJOR life changing event!
Here is what they found and surprise, surprise I’ve lived through each stage (I know I am in good company). There are four stages to the retirement process:
-honeymoon phase (euphoria)
-disenchantment (the high wears off)
-reorientation (building a new life)
-routine (acceptance, moving on in life)
Folks advised that it would take a year to adjust to retirement, and after a year and a few days, I can report that I find myself contentedly adjusted but it did take that full year to acclimate, assimilate, orient and chart a new course and be at peace with it. I could and did find the sun in a dense forest.
What I didn’t know when I chose to retire a year early was that I would be called to emergency familial duty. A duty that far outweighed any career importance. A grandson contracted a rare autoimmune disorder (he’s better by the way), and my Mother broke a hip. In each instance, I had the freedom and time to help out and be present. Higher Power could see ahead and had plans for me; plans that required my having time and energy to spare. Something kept me moving forward towards retirement; even when I was given a chance to take it all back and change my mind, I stayed the course.
The future is looking bright and I’m just living the varied stages of life as they present themselves. Just yesterday I was 25, preparing to get married and start a family; now, I’m several weeks away from turning 65 and arriving at the doorstep of Medicare🙀. Please, God, where did those 40 years go? I’m a …gulp…senior citizen!?! How did that happen?
I’ve experienced and felt fully the conflicting emotions. I’ve reveled in the excitement and sat silently through the uncertainty. I’ve settled into a peaceful acceptance. As I told my old boss in December, there is no looking back, there is only looking forward.
This is my new frontier, a blank canvas on which I can paint bold, bright, undulating streaks and streams of breathtaking color.
I’m embracing this retired life…finally. It took awhile but adjustments take time. As I drove home this morning with plans to sit at the computer and finish this blog, a familiar and well loved song came on the radio rocketing my happiness quotient into the stratosphere. I went off into a little trance, and dived deep into memories of a lifetime ago. It was 1972 and I was a fresh faced, naive 18 year old, looking to college, and Johnny Nash was singing in a rich, mellifluous voice this song:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s going to be a bright, bright Sun-Shiny day!
Thank you for traveling this journey with me and if you are going through any significant changes in your life, be patient and easy with yourself, and maybe, just maybe serenity will reveal itself to you and settle softly into your heart! I offer my personal guarantee honed and chiseled from the school of hard knocks.