Life’s Transitions: Retirement

If we are lucky to live long enough, all of us will go through transitional periods in our lives.  We might not like them all, but they’ll be there, nonetheless. My husband and I, as well as some of our friends, are starting the transition to the stage of retirement.  Have you worked all your life? Do you wonder what retirement will be like? Are you concerned or filled with anticipation?

Right now, I can only look at retirement through the lens of others. My husband, as well as few other close friends, have retired.  What do you envision retirement to be? It is a chance to do the things you never had time to do? Is it time to slow down? Or, a time to remake yourself?  Do you want to……

Travel?

Relax?

Have unstructured days?

Have breakfast with friends?

Go on a bike rike mid-morning?

Not have to rush out the door if you decide to have a second cup of coffee?

Lay in bed and listen to the rain?

Enjoy the smell of fresh-cut grass?

Spend more time with your spouse, children, and grandchildren?

Bake some cookies?

Make a gourmet meal?

To be able to do those things, one must be financially solvent or at least willing to live on a lesser income.  After all, some of the best of life’s moments are free.  We have an odd situation in our house. My husband retired last November, and two months later, I went back to work for the first time in over twenty years!

If asked, and I have been, I’d say he has adjusted fine to being retired. His days are busy. He is a woodworker, a hobby he’s had since he made me a desk on the porch of our first apartment in Delaware. Between making furniture, keeping our grass cut and trimmed, and helping me in the house, particularly with cleaning floors and laundry, he is occupied. Rarely, he is caught watching television, taking a nap, or reading a book.

Since I am at work for several hours on most days, we’ll usually join each other at dinner. He’s also assumed most of the cooking, on the days I work, at least. Then, it’s back out to the shop for several hours after dinner.  I find my way back to my computer to write my blog or catch up on personal emails or social media. Occasionally, not as often as I might like, anymore, I make some jewelry. All in all, I’d say we’ve accepted our new “normal.”

But, it is a transition, just like any other life change. And, some days are easier than others to acknowledge this new routine.  Roles get re-routed.  Priorities change. Nothing, it seems, stays the same as it was. And, that’s okay. But, we have noted some things that ease the transition. Here are some tips from a half retired couple:

Both you and your spouse need friends. Some friends are his, some are yours, some are shared. Spent time with each type and enjoy! Over the years, I’ve realized that friendships take work. Be willing to do some, at least half, of that work. If someone calls and wants to get together, make an effort to do it. If you’ve been thinking about someone, let them know. Getting together does not have to be expensive or highly planned. It can be as simple as sharing a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine. My one friend and I have a standing date once a week to walk with each other and catch up. If once a week doesn’t work, how about once a month? Make time for each other and your friends. Make it a priority. Maybe getting together has to be purposely planned at first, maybe you’ll ease into a routine of seeing each other.

Do small things for your spouse or friends that let them know you appreciate them. My husband will occasionally make my tea in the morning, so that when I arrive in the kitchen it is there, waiting for me! I will go and weed a garden bed without being asked, and know that he appreciates my effort because he tells me so. Small things count. Think of some and do them. This goes for your friends, as well as your spouse.

You might notice that your communication patterns change or, maybe, need to change. You might need to reach out to your friend, instead of waiting for them to reach out to you. Do not assume your friends are too busy to see you. They’ll make the time.

In essence, you need some social outlet. My husband missed the social aspect of work. This was evident when we went out to dinner with friends and he couldn’t stop talking. Whoa! Now, it’s better. He’s developed regular breakfast dates with a few friends, not every week, but once or twice a month. And, I am sure to talk to him when I get home! (Maybe, too much.)  Doing things with your friends (although, not to the exclusion of your spouse) makes you a more interesting person, and gives you topics for conversation, too!

Find some things your spouse and you like to do together.  For example, my husband and I used to enjoy going to flea markets before we had our boys. Yes, this was over 20 years ago. But, life’s been busy in the meantime. We are trying to go again, more often. Just us. Our kids have lives of their own and don’t want to go anyway.  What did you enjoy as a young couple? What do you enjoy now? Can you find something you like and do it together?

Don’t get me wrong, we are not experts in this transition to retirement. It’s a journey, as I told a friend today. And, that’s okay.  Journeys can be long or short, trying or exciting, but the important thing is that you are on one. You might as well enjoy it because the end arrives too fast for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

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