Retirement Musings: One Year Later

Dear Friends,

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.

Love,

S.G.

 

 

27 thoughts on “Retirement Musings: One Year Later

  1. Hi, Susan – This post makes me wish that we were sitting in The Daily Grind right now–catching up. You’ve brought up so much that I’d like to talk about! Thank you for sharing your retirement journey so openly and honestly. When I first began to consider retirement (6 years ago) I had a difficult time finding honest and open material covering the emotional side of retirement. The financial side of retirement — check. Glossy Freedom 55 brochures — double-check. But what I was looking for was hard for me to find at that time. Your blog is exactly what I was looking for. I’m glad to be following now.
    Oh, and thanks for the shout out — I appreciate it greatly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Donna,

      I so appreciate your reading and commenting. Yes, the conversations we could be having! I think between the two of us, we could save the world hee hee. But since that possibility is in the realm of science fiction, we will simply share our experience, strength and hope with others and each other.

      I was in the Daily Grind yesterday and “you know who” behind the counter was frantically talking my ear off, making bold promises, lobbying for repeat business. Yada yada yada! Bless him. but I learned from “someone” not to order the bagel! 🤣.

      It really did take a year to adjust; I spent many months after retiring questioning my decision. I had a great job that I loved and I still do miss the people, but shinier shores were
      calling 🌅

      I had a support group to which I could voice and express my angst and emotions and that was very therapeutic. Support is so helpful – someone to talk to about the fears and who won’t just Pooh Pooh them.

      I can hardly believe that the emotional aspects of retirement were more or less ignored. After all we have all heard the story about the person who retires and then dies because they are miserable.

      I knew I wouldn’t lack for activity but I also know that it takes courage to put oneself out there, go outside the comfort zone, and try new things, meet new people. Some people don’t do well with change. That is why I set goals for myself so I wouldn’t fall into a depression or rut! I kept moving!

      You are an inspiration- thank you for being you!

      S.G.

      Like

    • Thanks Sandy for reading and commenting! We’ve walked a big part of this career journey side by side except I’m a few steps ahead and if I can shed a bit of light on the path, then that’s a good thing. I know some might think me a bit crazy when I hesitated about leaving the rat race, but when something is such a big part of your life, it’s not necessarily easy to pull the plug. But pulling the plug would have to happen sooner or later, and I chose sooner. It didn’t make the choice easier; in fact, it probably made it harder by choosing to go out earlier. But I am enjoying life and family and that is what counts.

      See you for lunch soon!

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  2. You can practice Spanish with me Nana. Each stage of our lives brings new experiences and challenges. I think you’ve done a great job transitioning into retirement . You make retirement look good! I love this post. Beautifully written. Also love the song you referenced in the end. That’s one of my favorites!!We’re all looking forward to seeing you the next time you come up here. Love you. – Jenn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jenn,

      I will practice Spanish with you as soon as I get around to starting up that little project. I had a “Learn Spanish in 10 minutes” CD and I only pulled it out once or twice. Somehow the discipline I apply to other endeavors will need to be channeled toward learning Spanish, ha ha. I’m procrastinating. I studied French and German in school eons ago and could definitely use a touch up there as well. At any rate, learning any language is good for the brain. Also doing something creative like writing my blog pages requires attention and concentration – it’s like painting: I use the blank page and hope some insight spins up from the cave of my soul and empties out onto the page!

      I think it’s a good thing to be self reflective and strive to know one self and be in touch with one’s own deepest feelings . I try to share that to the best of my ability and hope it’s helpful for someone. Thank you for your support! Love you too!

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

    • Dear Pat,

      Great to hear from you. It’s amazing that anything worthwhile requires effort, even peace !! But I’ll take the moments of peace when they come and be grateful. I’ve wrung my hands enough times and gone cross eyed trying to trace the thoughts bouncing between my ears, ha ha, but all things work out I believe toward an ultimate good. All that is needed is trust and faith.

      Come see me soon in the desert.

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  3. This really moved me and I think it will help people. It actually was nice to get an update on your retirement status, given how you were feeling about it before you took the step (I.e. apprehensive). It would also be nice to get future updates about how it’s progressing as the years go on. I really loved the photos that you have interspersed in there too.

    Beautiful writing! Thanks for sharing your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear S.H.
    It seems that I sometimes go kicking and screaming towards destinations that God has destined for me. Since the kicking wears me out , I finally give in and open up my arms and say ok, I surrender ! ha ha
    It was this way with the decision to retire; I wanted to back out, I really did; I wanted to change my mind, but something held me back. We need simply take the next right step as they say in the rooms of Alanon and trust that God knows where we are going to end up and has our back. The mystery of it all does lend a bit of excitement . Where are we going? What’s in store for us? I don’t know, just keep taking the next right step, and follow our inner guidance.

    It’s an overused phrase but it’s true: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Ain’t that the truth, ain’t that the truth! 🙂

    Love,
    S.G.

    Like

    • Dearest Rosie,

      I have been thinking about you a lot. Thanks for reading and commenting. But most of all, your expression of love is the thing that really moves me.

      God Bless You and much love back at ya,

      S.G.

      Like

  5. WOW!! Susan- that was awesome! I can totally relate to many things you were saying! I have had and are till having some of the same emotions!! And then I moved half way across the country!! So,,, I also have an added adventure- but I feel I am doing well. Keep writing as I love to keep reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Bonny,

      Thank you for being a great friend and reading and commenting. It is dearly appreciated! The words come pouring out of me and I hope it touches someone else! Thank you for your support and encouragement, and better yet, it’s great that you understand oh so well the subject matter!

      You should be commended for your courage and strength moving to a new State and forging a new life! It’s not easy… most people might stay put and not take the risk!

      Hold the fort down for me in Pacifica, will you? 🙂

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

    • Hey RPM,

      Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting. S.G. appreciates it immensely.

      I was wondering who would notice that it’s me in that photo leaning against a tree and looking into the wilderness! That is at the top of the Tram, at Mt. San Jacinto. Auntie Nina took the picture when I wasn’t looking! Wasn’t that nice of her? Made for a great photo and even better, it added a nice touch to my blog.

      Love,
      S.G.

      Like

  6. I appreciate your reflection on retirement a year later. I am only 2 months into it and still waiting for the honeymoon. It’s not that I’m unhappy, but I’ve felt uneasy and restless. I will focus on ‘Easy Does It’ to cut myself some slack. And I’m going to sign up for a yoga class. I have been ultra careful to avoid over commitment since I don’t want to mindlessly fill my time up and become ultra busy. Thanks for sharing your perspective, S.G. Things worked out the way they were supposed to for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Molly,
      Here is something I didn’t share in my blog, because otherwise my word count would have gotten too high hee hee. I’m working on that! But here is why I believe I felt the honeymoon phase so vividly. It’s because I wasn’t sitting in my little apartment all alone. I had flown south one week after retiring to the Palm Springs region which is known for its sunshine, and of course to be with hubby. I biked, played golf, swam, and had a couple of celebratory luncheons with girlfriends. I said “This ain’t so bad!” There wasn’t opportunity for down time or to feel uneasiness or restlessness. Realizing this, I told an old co-worker, “Here is my advice. When you retire, do not go back to your house or apartment to be there for an extended period; instead plan something out of the ordinary which is stimulating… a trip, whatever!” Because if we are waking up to the same place every day, right after retirement, without our career and colleagues to fill the space, then one may end up looking at walls and pining a bit. It’s just my theory.

      Retirement is our chance to do things that we were putting off, like signing up for a yoga class. It’s your time and you get to decide how to fill it. If I want to linger over a cup of coffee in bed in the morning, I can! I think the idea of not over committing oneself is taking an “Easy Does It” approach. I like to tip toe into these major changes the best I can. It’s not like I need constant stimulation because I do have quiet moments, but I like it when I have something to look forward, even if it’s lunch, coffee or walk with a friend.

      I also set up something for post retirement that I was really looking forward to, and that was my trip to the east coast to visit with http://www.readsuzette.com! This year it’s an Alaskan cruise that I wanted to do for eons and would have done it right after retirement, but Suzette came first!

      I used to keep a little sign on my refrigerator and perhaps Seneca said it: “Travel and change of scenery impart new vigor to the mind.” I’ve always kept that in mind. I’m not a big traveler but I try to get out of my comfort zone when I can. Retirement is a real challenge to us to find something that will keep us getting up in the morning.

      You will do great… you’ve got your fantastic writing and humor that you share with others, but if you can do something that’s new and refreshing, it can certainly add spice to life. I want you to feel that honeymoon 😉

      Let us know how it goes.

      Love,
      S.G.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much, S.G., for your thoughtful response to my comment (and I don’t mind that it is long!) I would have responded sooner but I was too busy being retired. Haha! I retired in early November and my gathering with coworkers to celebrate was cancelled due to a snowstorm. I didn’t have any travel plans and thought the holidays would be enough to occupy my first days of freedom. Instead, I think they added to my stress! But I’m settling in despite the initial challenges. I do have something to look forward to most days – meeting a friend, taking care of my grandson after preschool, or relishing a day without anything on my calendar. I am having coffee in bed even as I type this on my ipad and that is a luxury I enjoy most every day. Yesterday I had a surprising glimpse of the honeymoon – I stayed home all day, watched Marie Kondo’s new series on Netflix and cleaned out my clothes and linen closet. While that may sound like a mundane task, I really enjoyed it and did so without any guilt. I took a vacation from the computer and social media, and that felt really good, too. My husband and I plan to take a vacation in April to get away. He’s still working so we have to work things out according to when he can get time off – but the good news is I don’t have to request vacation days with the risk of having them turned down! Thanks for your support!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It all sounds perfect to me, Molly! Thank you for sharing that! I see strength, complexity and a lot of wisdom in the simple things you narrated!

        Now my closet is waiting ! 😂

        Love
        S.G.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s amazing what transitions like retirement can teach us, isn’t it? I think you and I are at a similar place in life. I retired a little over a year ago too. I wanted some new experiences and had a plan (sort of) for my retirement days.
    I did use Duolingo to learn a little Italian before our trip to Itlay this fall and am now using it to study Spanish. I like it a lot. It’s very easy. I recommend checking it out if you get the chance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, a trip to Italy is a great gift to give oneself after retirement. It inspired you to learn some Italian and I’m sure you got lots of culture and history too! New experiences, I believe, keep us young… at heart!

      I am happy to report that I did my first Spanish session with duo lingo today! Hooray, I finally stopped procrastinating.

      Love
      S.G.

      Like

  8. I can relate to your post on many levels, Susan. Interesting how you bring up 111 in your first sentence. These numbers hold special significance for us the past three years, and that’s another story. It was also interesting how you and your husband lived apart for 7 years. I am sure you could write a story about that. We lived apart 1 year because of consecutive transfers and we found the 1 year challenging. I loved the stunning photos you placed in your post. Your last paragraph reminds me of what a special friend told me many years ago “treat yourself as kindly as you treat others”. Thank you for your heartfelt story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear E/E,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I wish I had kept a journal of the “seven year chapter” of my husband I living 505 miles apart. It was indeed an adventure and a test of trust, faith, devotion, love and friendship. It was actually fun and it affirmed for me the truth of the old adage: *absence makes the heart grow fonder*.

      Yes I used 111 with purposeful intent because I like numbers – actually if truth be told, I have a sister who was into numbers and I kind of took inspiration from her. Thus, I simply had to finish and publish my post on 1/11. 😃
      As an aside, whenever I happen to look at a clock and it says 444, I send a text to my sisters (or they send one to me) with little prayer hands and an angel. It’s our little sisterly tradition that it represents a visitation from our late father.

      Who says life has to be logical! There’s too much mystery and magic to be experienced and that is how I like it!

      Glad you liked the photos – I was really pleased how they fit into the story!

      Love
      S.G.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You gave me goosebumps on the numbers, Susan. I have always had 8s and 4s. 3 years ago our little granddaughter was born on Jan. 11th. We were advised early in the pregnancy that she was likely going to have some challenges. She is great!!! The ICU nurse that day advised us that she was born on a special day, and that she was watched over by angels. That is the first time I have heard about this. Since then 1s have appeared everywhere. I agree with you “who says life has to be logical”. I just stop and pay attention. Thanks for sharing Susan!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Now this gives ME goose bumps! What a wonderful share.

        8s are significant to me too.

        So have a wonderful 118 day 😄👏😄
        WHOOPEE!

        ❤️🙏❤️
        SG

        Like

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