Friday, March 2, 2012

Retirement isn’t for sissies

I had grand ideas and delusions about what retirement was going to be like. I retired in April 2011, almost a year ago now.

In my pre-retirement brain, I saw myself sleeping later, having a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper and going about my day doing what I wanted, when I wanted…of course, all while in a perennial State of Bliss.

My vision may have been myopic and naïve.  I retired a year earlier than I planned to, so I wasn’t “ready, ready”…if you know what I mean.  I had figured by the time the big date rolled around, I’d have all my schemes, groups and activities set up.  “They” say that you should have some idea what you are going to do. 

I didn’t realize it would be important to start out with a schedule, any schedule.  At first, I luxuriated and floundered around.  One day I got out of bed and realized I wasn’t doing anything of any significance or actually fun.

I wasn’t feeling the satisfaction I expected.  I think it was around 11 a.m. or so when an epiphany hit me.  I was 100% focused on what I HAD to do; like cooking, cleaning, and running errands.  That was about two months in.  I needed to think about what I WANTED to do.
During phase two, I loaded up on activities, took on-line classes, a writing class and joined a writing group, attempted a major reorganization of my closets, moved all the furniture, cleaned even the Netherlands of the Garage, wrote, tried to read five books at once, made lots of lunch plans with my friends, started a weekly swimming party and you get the drift.  Total overdrive.
On top of that, since I “wasn’t working”…just engaging in a lot of activity…I became the number one errand girl, chief problem solver, coordinator and scheduler in my house.  My husband naturally assumed since he still worked (outside the home), that anything at all on the home front would fall to me.  You know, all the shopping, gardening, calling and arranging for repairs and deliveries, dry cleaner trips, social networking and plans, yard work, taking out the trash, bringing things to the post office, decorating, taking people and animals to the doctor, buying presents, planning our weekends, sending cards……….and so on.

 And then you know, other people assumed because I’m home, I wouldn’t mind doing this or that.  And I usually don’t.  Then I found myself the main entertainment house, hosting family and friend gatherings and trying to take care of everyone else and everything else in my world.  It was easy for me, as I’m a nurturer and like to make people happy.
The loss of your time is startling.  It’s insidious and it sneaks up on you.  I woke up at 6 a.m. one day exhausted and realized I was busier than when I was working…and I did overtime then.  I went non-stop all day.  I still don’t know how that happened.

 I used to laugh when my husband’s retired parents complained about how busy they were and how much they had to do.   Now I understand completely.  And then there’s that time warp dimension thing…have you noticed time keeps moving faster and faster?
Now, I still don’t have something locked in stone, like an actual daily schedule, as some suggest.  But I have some structure to my days.  I try to accomplish at least three things, but limit myself to ten.  I try not to get overzealous.  I used to think, back in the day….about four months ago…that I should be able to do 100’s of things per day.  Seriously.  When I was working outside I allowed myself breaks…not once I retired.  I figured…jeez…I’m only in my 50’s…I should be able to do it all.

I’ve had to take my writing more seriously and make it a top priority.  I’ve always wanted to be an author and I understand now that I have to make the time for that – lots of it.  It is now protected time and I don’t answer the phone or door when I’m working.

I’ve learned to pencil in eating lunch and leisure time when home, instead of running around all morning in my sweats doing stuff and forgetting to stop to eat.  I did lose about 20 pounds during early retirement, but 10 have come back to join me.  Need to get that exercise penciled in and a priority, I’m just saying.
 So, you people who are still working at jobs away from home, who say, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t work….you can do anything you want…you don’t really have anything to do”, just wait.  You’re going to retire one day and you won’t know what hit you. 

 The other thing I’ve learned….is tasks and stuff will expand into huge projects when you let them.  I often wonder how I ever had time to work.  And, back in my 20’s and 30’s I worked AND went to college and grad school.  How was that possible? 

 Retirement changes your mind and way of thinking and being in the world.  I so appreciate blue skies and sun, birds, a nice meal, my friends, my yard, and just peacefulness now more than ever.  I am taking the time to smell the flowers…..and I don’t think I did that nearly enough before. 
Just remember, you’re going to need to toughen up before you head down this road….as you will find yourself busy, popular and in demand.  You actually can do what you want…but it’s not easy.

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