Blog, Inspiration, Life Lessons

One Sure Way to Ruin Retirement

I remember when I would set goals and sub-goals and sub-sub-goals. I had a 5-year plan and a 10-year plan and a 25-year plan. I often thought about  what kind of person I wanted to be, where I wanted to be and what I wanted to have done by the time I was 50 (that seemed like old-age to me then!). I liked to set these long-range goals then work backwards to the present with action steps and timelines. I strived to be the best I could be and tried hard to make each day count. The more I did the better I felt about myself.

I used to read many self-help books, like The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan, 1973, that gave me an exhaustive plan for being the perfect superwoman I wanted to be. Right now, today, I hyperventilate just thinking about it!

This past week I opened more than a few emails telling me there were 10 things (or more) I needed to do in order to be successful.  I took one of them seriously because I thought maybe I could add a little zip to my laid-back-self if I followed a “simple” early morning check list for purposeful living. It started easy enough with just three things you must do to begin your day successfully, but then it went on to add how-to steps under each one and then bullet points under each of those. It didn’t take long before I felt tense and wanted to close my i-pad and run for more coffee!…not at all what I consider “simple”. In fact, I felt like re-naming the article, “An Intense and Complicated Way to Ruin the Beginning of Any Day”.

Instead I smiled to myself. Goal setting is good. Taking advantage of the days that are given to us to live life to the fullest and in the best way we can is good. But this Gran Finale time of life is when we get to say what makes each day successful. We can work our lists at our own pace, or not work them at all. There’s not a manual or a Retirement Police that say a successful retirement must look a certain way.

BUT one sure way to ruin a perfectly glorious retirement day is to should myself with a list of things to do that ‘someone’ says will measure my success or purposeful living index. I should do this, I should do that, I should be this way, or be that way, or go there, or say that, or buy that, or not eat that… I should… I should.

I thought of Winnie-the-Pooh and something I remembered him saying:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet

“My favorite day,” said Pooh”

I think he might respond the same way I did to the grandiose 10-ways-to-be-successful lists.

 “What I like doing best is Nothing.” (said Christopher Robin)

“How do you do Nothing,” asked Pooh after he had wondered for a long time.

“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say, ‘Oh, Nothing,’ and then you go and do it.

It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

“Oh!” said Pooh.”   -A.A.Milne

No Shoulds!

From what ‘shoulds’ has retirement freed you? How do you feel about giving them up, or not?

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Blog, Inspiration

Retirement is an Outdated Term

I remember loving to spend the summers with my retired grandparents. There was such a wonderful rhythm to their lives. They did the same things over and over, and each week looked like the previous one. My grandfather was a retired hog breeder who now had time to read, take a walk everyday, smoke his pipe after each meal and stay up on the national news. My grandmother was the homemaker and continued her domestic chores of cleaning, doing the laundry, and preparing meals.  They didn’t own a car. They lived simply in an apartment. They had groceries delivered and didn’t venture far from home. They seemed to know their roles well and were in a very stable and predictable groove. This was their retirement.

Retirement looks quite different today. We have many choices. Travel is expected and our culture has created the term  snowbird for those of us who go south for the winter. There are retirement centers and retirement homes and retirement condos, retirement excursions, assisted living for retirees, discounted movies and Y memberships, Senior Discount Days at malls …

If you google “retirement photos” you will find mostly photos of couples, looking very fit and vibrant, basking on a beach, sitting by palm trees sipping cocktails, or playing golf. Very glamorous!

What comes to your mind when you hear the word retirement?

A V.O.W. friend of mine says when she hears the word “retirement”, she thinks of retiring to bed, and envisions sleeping. “I think I’ll retire for the night” kind of thing, only it’s “retire for a few years!” In fact, she says, for her the word has given her permission to sleep more, a little snooze mid-morning, an afternoon nap, then early to bed.

Every time I hear the word, I get a mental image of a cast-off, like old tires, used and tossed aside, maybe in the dump heap, piled high. There’s just no good place for them. Useless. Done. Finished. Retired!

I would like to get real about retirement. I would like to know who decided that the final stage of adult life should be called “retirement” and why. I would like to know for sure how it feels and looks for you.

First of all, many retirees are single, for various reasons, and live alone.

Second, many, maybe most, retirees don’t have an affluent bank account that enables lavish excursions to beach resorts and exotic places.

Third, leaving one’s career in order to “retire” creates a void in life for many of us who loved our work, and even though we have a long list of things we thought we wanted to do when we didn’t have to work, we just can’t get started on them so find ourselves a little bewildered.

You probably know by now, if you are a regular reader of Vibrant Old Woman, that I am never afraid to rename something, or reframe something that feels negative or doesn’t quite fit the situation. Often the simple act of renaming infuses new life into an old object or a worn out practice. I think we should experiment with doing just that with this old term retirement.

How does the Gran Finale of Life fit for you? For me it compares to the final act of a drama or opera, or the final chapter of a good novel. It does not disassociate itself from the other chapters or from the storyline. It is the time when all the pieces come together and tie things up, so to speak. It is the time when we say “Ah, I see who I am!” because we can see the continuum of events and hear the whole melody.

Changing the term gives me a sense of anticipation about how I’m going to define my final stage of life, my time without the 9 to 5, without the definition of a job title or designated role. I don’t need to fit into an already established concept. I can be free to declare to myself, mostly, that this is truly my time to live as I want to and be who I truly am.

I, for one, am going to invigorate my thinking about my life by retiring the term retirement. I’m not using it. From now on I’m declaring that I left my wonderful job several years ago to begin the Gran Finale of my life!

How about you? Are you retired? Or something else…way more wonderful?



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