Reflections on Retirement

Happy RetirementI am approaching one year of retirement (or unemployment, however you look at it) and am surprised about some of my reactions and feelings. The positive ones were happily anticipated and mostly predictable. I enjoy longer, more relaxed trips when I travel. Gone are the tedious teleconference calls, meaningless meetings, and aggressive (impossible) deadlines. I am free from corporate politics and the compromises I had to make to play the game. Relief from this kind of stress is wonderful, a deliverance, like getting out of jail. No surprises here. Other things have been a mixed bag.

The lazy mornings are luxurious — sleeping in when you want to, lingering over a second cup of coffee — until they start to feel aimless. Checking things off the “honey do” list is great, too. Lots of busy busyness. Organizing, cleaning, throwing things out. But the list is too long, the sense of accomplishment fleeting, the neatness only temporary. I do a small amount of free-lance web work, which is intermittent and unpredictable. I am taking a yoga teacher training program, more an interest than a passion. Yes, I do have more time to garden, go to the gym, read, write. Nice…yet somehow I always managed to do those things anyway while working.

Work has been the organizing principle in my life and now I am at a loss for structure. Everything seems random. Maybe self-discipline would do the trick, or grandchildren, and I have neither. Other than taking care of my elderly mother, nothing feels pressing or important. Every day there are many possibilities. Most of them are optional. I can do them now, or later, or not at all. I am surprised how much time I waste on the ‘net or doing crossword puzzles. While I am grateful that I am available for family crises and to help my partner or friends with difficult situations, I cannot depend on other people’s dilemmas to fill my life. Nor, do I want to.

The feelings that I really didn’t expect are reprised from my few years as a stay/stuck-at-home mother. When my then-husband went to work and the children went off school, I felt left behind with nothing meaningful to do, just the laundry and housework. They had somewhere to go and I didn’t. It truly bothered me. Coffee with the neighbor ladies, tennis or a little golf, shopping. They were merely fillers to me, entertaining at best, never satisfying. Completely lacking gravitas. I found that I was not cut out to be a suburban housewife and, 30 years later, this stage of retirement feels much like that.

So…I am looking to work again, but just not full-time, which is the catch. Finding an engaging, part-time, paying job is not easy. (If I am going to work, I’d rather get paid. I am not as financially comfortable as I had hoped.) That not forthcoming, I will explore volunteer work. Right now, I am in the “Retirement 12-Step Program”; I accept that I need an external framework and source of motivation. Maybe I always will. Funny the things you learn about yourself when you have a lot of time on your hands.

13 thoughts on “Reflections on Retirement

  1. spoor33 June 25, 2014 / 5:40 pm

    I wouldn’t have expected the echoes back to being a stay-at-home mom either. Sorry to hear!! But knowing you as an incredibly resourceful and competent person, I know you will figure out how best to handle this and then teach us all about it (thank you!!).

    • accidental goddess June 27, 2014 / 10:26 pm

      Sally, I think academics have a gentler way of moving to part-time involvement and into full retirement. I hope this will be a smooth transition for you…many years from now…when you are ready. 🙂

  2. Kelley Greeson June 25, 2014 / 6:33 pm

    I appreciate your perspective here. I suspect I will be similar when it’s time for me to retire. While I’d love to work fewer hours than I do, I hate that it seems to be all or nothing. In the corporate world, you can have a fulfilling job that you’re passionate about, a job that pays well, or a job that allows you work-life balance, but the best you can hope for is to get a job that fits two out of the three.

    • accidental goddess June 27, 2014 / 10:23 pm

      Kelley: When the time comes, I hope you get to retire when you want and under your own conditions. A lot to ask for in the current corporate world! My best advice is have a plan. I was caught a little short on that and am still catching up.

      • Kelley Greeson June 28, 2014 / 10:04 pm

        You might feel you were caught short financially. But emotionally and for your health, I don’t think you would like working in the environment today. The frustration can take a toll that we don’t even realize.

        I know that’s little consolation, though. It’s always frustrating when people who work hard to influence their destinies (i.e. “people with a plan,” like you and me) have options taken away. No one likes that. In this industry right now, I feel like it’s inevitable, though, especially if one tries to maintain a certain level of work-life balance.

      • accidental goddess June 29, 2014 / 7:28 pm

        I didn’t like the changes in the work environment much before I left and, with the direction it was heading, I can’t imagine how bad it is now.

  3. Maxene Raices June 26, 2014 / 1:56 pm

    Just came back from my 50th High School Reunion. Now THAT was a reality check. Some people have aged gracefully and are still recognizable, although we all wore a pin with our high school yearbook picture so that if there was any doubt of who the bald guy was, or identifying the matronly woman, we could figure it out quickly.

    As a group of the first Boomers, those who showed up are vital, still excited about life and willing to talk about their future and not just their pasts. All totaled, about 25% of the class was there. What happened to the other 75% I know some have passed on, while others just are plainly not interested. The rest are those who are not able or not happy to share about their lives.

    I’m thrilled to be a part of the 25% and have people still recognize me and cross the room to say “hello”. Reflecting on the evening, I realized that here was a room full of lively people with much to say and lots to live for, not a bunch of seniors to be patronized or ignored.

  4. Roxanne June 27, 2014 / 5:52 pm

    I don’t know if I could go back to structured life again.
    I would like a source of income but my ideas to generate some don’t
    include working for anyone but myself. We will see how that
    works out! I’ve been way busier than I thought I would be since
    I retired in Dec. I’ve been working on a book, learning to weave and spin
    and attending wonderful knitting retreats. I experienced the same feelings as a
    young wife and mother as you did 40+ years ago, but I’m not
    Experiencing this time around. We came close to losing Franco and have
    lost a few really good friends in the last years so we
    want to do the trips we have talked about in the next few years while
    we are both feeling alive with the possibilities. I’m feeling blessed and trying
    to give of myself in time and handmade items to those people who have touched my life
    in meaningful ways. Mary Lou, one of the hardest lessons I am tackling in retirement is the ability to just relax and it let the stress seep back in. I haven’t conquered it yet, but I am sure trying! Hugs, Roxanne

    • accidental goddess June 27, 2014 / 10:21 pm

      Roxanne, Traveling with Franco and exploring your artistic bent are wonderful pursuits. Let’s stay in touch. I want to follow our continued success, learn from it.

      • Roxanne June 28, 2014 / 12:11 am

        Yes, for sure I would like to stay in touch. Women friends teach me so much about life and about myself.

  5. accidental goddess June 27, 2014 / 10:17 pm

    All wonderful comments from women at different stages of their lives. I am thinking that living alone is a factor in my free-form existence and affects how I feel about it. Whether you wake up everyday to pets or a partner, a shared life provides some boundaries and structure.

  6. j9gerber July 10, 2014 / 9:31 pm

    Thanks for your heartfelt and candid advice. A sense of accomplishment and purpose are so important – please know you are so important to many. We admire your sense of humor, positive outlook and love of life. Just you being you makes this world a better place.

    • accidental goddess July 11, 2014 / 1:13 am

      I miss some things about work and a lot of people. You are one of them. 🙂

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