I am approaching my two year anniversary of writing a column Retirement 101 published bi-monthly in the Cape Gazette in Lewes, Delaware. My view of retirement has changed just like I have.
On September 20, 2012, I wrote, “Retirement life isn’t working out so well for me…yesterday I ironed everything in my closet. I always hated to iron. This afternoon I cleaned the coffee stains from the inside of all of my white mugs. Did you know that Mr. Clean erasers could do this? Just a few minutes ago I was tempted to graduate the cereal boxes in my pantry form tallest to smallest or should it be smallest to tallest? Could it be that working outside the home made me saner? I used to feel important, intelligent and connected to the world.”
In two years’ time I have received a range of emails from “Boy, do I feel your pain” to “Just enjoy the experience!” One man wrote, “People often ask me what I do in my retirement each day and I have two answers. Whatever I want and I don’t know but it takes me all day to do it.” His answer scared me.
My readers write about wanting structure or a routine but also about needing time to simply be still on the back porch. All of them want to achieve a balance of the two. “People go through a transition period and aren’t really comfortable until they become familiar the many things available to them,” wrote one man. For me this transition took about 4 years partly because I moved to a new state where I knew no one and partly because I have been over thinking my life ever since I was in kindergarten. What can I bring to show and tell that will interest the whole class? What should I be doing with my time today? Tomorrow? Next Thursday?
I like to be busy more than I like to be idle. My husband prefers to have more rest time and less things to do. On January 4, a reader wrote, “Who knew retirement would involve so darn much together time? When my beloved husband who won’t admit to being bored looks over my shoulder and breathes down my neck, I want to strangle him. I scream silently and take long walks or run needless errands.” My reply to her was “My dearest new friend Geneva, it is 33 degrees with gale force winds as I pen this letter to you from a bench on the boardwalk. I bought 21 birthday cards, but I can’t go home right now because I might accidently hurl my Kindle into the big screen TV. I hate that he watches TV! I know he needs some get away time from me too because last week he signed up to play golf in 40 degree weather. His blue lips lied and said he had a great time.” You have no doubt heard the expression, “for better, for worse, but not for lunch.”
Now we both have different activities which take us out of the house which means we actually have something to talk about at the dinner table. He can tell me about volunteering as a docent at the college and I can talk about my diversity book club or a writing class.
Most of the mail I receive is about how much people are grateful that they can make choices about what to do and when. All of us read the headlines about how many folks are worried that they can never retire. The majority of seniors in my community are giving back to society by volunteering at cancer centers, community resource centers, homeless shelters, hospitals, and a host of local charities. They have found a balance between meeting friends for dinner, babysitting a grandchild, joining a book club and traveling to new places with the responsibilities of everyday life.
In January of 2014, I wrote, “Dance in the new year!” My goal is to find a venue where I can host a dance night for seniors who still want to move like juniors. We need to exercise and to laugh while we do it. Retirement life will keep changing as we age and all we can do is change too. Even retired folks have to figure how to lead a balanced life between work and play—even if it is work of their choosing. My goal is to stop overthinking everything if that is possible. Is it possible?