I’m a fraud. For years I’ve been convinced that I had a book or a series of books in me to write if I only had enough quiet time. Or the right space. Or time alone. Or the focus. Or whatever. And in fact, I have a really good book in me. But you may never get to read it, I’m sorry to say.
And I wanted to learn the play the mandolin if I only had enough quiet time. Or the right space. Or time alone. Or the focus. Or whatever.
I wanted to learn how to draw. That would be something I could do if I only had enough quiet time. Or the right space. Or time alone. Or the focus. Or whatever.
As you may have guessed for the past 8 weeks I had them all. I had the time, space, time alone, focus and whatever.
I did not write my masterpiece. I did not learn to play the mandolin. I did not learn how to draw.
What did I do?
I went outside and walked everyday.
I sat in quiet and drank my cup of hot tea without having to get up and reheat it.
I watched time pass by watching where the shadows from the movement of the sun landed on my fence.
I pulled weeds.
I watched Ted Talks and kept digging deep to learn, understand and grow. Loved this one by Bill Gates.
I planted flowers, tomatoes and peppers, then I covered them up on cold nights.
I read. And I shared my books with other friends who love reading as well.
I listened to new indie music on youtube.com and found new artists. Thank you to Alexrainbird Music)
I listened to books. I loved listening to Tom Hanks read The Dutch House written by Ann Patchett.
I baked bread.
I wrote letters to dear friends (send me your address if you want me to send you a letter too.)
I zoomed. A lot. I stayed connected with my Rotary Club and visited several other meetings and listened to their speakers.
I stayed in close contact with my family through Facebook Messenger video and Facetime.
I met on video with long time friends who I used to waitress with back in the day when I was a young mom. Those connections are still going strong. Amen for that!
– I’m going to cut myself some slack and honor what I’ve achieved.
No written book for the world to read (not yet anyhow) but lots of blogging.
No mandolin but listened to tons of music (lots of Indie music as well as ‘blow out the speaker’ loud tunes.)
No drawing except for doodles, but I painted my porch swing and added color to the front of my house with accents.
I think my time away from others has helped me put perspective on what matters.
Books, for sure.
Color, of course.
Walking, and movement.
Family. Friends. Contact.
And writing words in whatever form they need to be.
If I had to grade myself during my time of isolation I’d give myself a pat on the back. Actually, if I could possibly make it happen, I’d find a way to hug myself. One of those long hugs that you wish you could give to someone near and dear to you. One of those, ‘don’t let me go’ hugs. The kind where the other hand is rubbing up and down the shoulders and back. You know … touch.
That’s been missing during this time. Physical contact. People.
I hope during your time of isolation you were able to find what matters most and focus all your attention there. And let the other stuff slide away. What matters most to me ais the knowledge that I am enough just like I am. And you are too. I’m not sure but that sounds like something Mr. Rogers would say. I miss Mr. Rogers too.
Back ‘Before Cornonavirus’ aka BC, I stood in rooms filled with people and listened to music. I sat in auditoriums and absorbed messages from authors. I sat elbow to elbow with friends, colleagues and strangers. I whooped and yelled at volleyball games. I danced and celebrated at weddings. I squished myself on airplanes and never thought twice about it. I wandered aimlessly at libraries. That was all so ‘yesterday.’
In my dream last night, I was in a room bursting with people and my neighbor (from 1973) walked across the room to greet me. His arms went up to hug me and I stopped him in shock, admonishing him about our social distance rules and regulations. I looked around the full room and realized it was too late now, the way everyone was all tight together like salmon wiggling and giggling upstream.
I took a step back from him and remembered I was dreaming and I could do anything I wanted. I rewound the dream and this time when I spotted him in the dream, I let him hug me and I held him and just breathed him in. And I hugged him back. This childhood friend of mine just gave me the first hug I’ve had in a very long time and I just breathed it all in.
I didn’t realize this post would be about loneliness but that’s what’s coming to the surface as I write. Even with all the gratitude I feel for my life, the enforced separation due to the coronavirus means there’s no hugs. No physical connection. No massages. No touch. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until he reached out from 1973 to me in 2020. It was like a scene from Quantum Leap.
I’m not complaining. I have a house, I have food, I have a yard, I have space. I know of so many others living on top of each other, with no outlet when tempers flare. I know the family courts are dealing with custody issues, restraints, domestic violence and I take a deep breath in and exhale gratitude.
I know how lucky I am and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but boy oh boy I sure miss those sweet things I took for granted, don’t you?
Now, all I ever want to do is to connect. I make calls. I send cards. I use the internet to Face Time, Zoom, Skye and FB video chat. And with all that connection, the physical touch is still so elusive…
How about you? Are you in contact with those long lost friends and relatives?
This is the time when I start looking around to see who is ready, willing and able to join me. Sometimes I can’t find anyone and it makes me sad. I wonder sometimes whether I have too much times on my hands, and I wonder how to find friends to do crazy adventures with me.
Take a train across Canada? Sign me up.
Jump out of a plane. No thanks.
Kayak in the San Juan Islands? I’m packed and ready to go.
Soak in a hot springs? Oh yes!
Snowmobiling? No thanks – it’s a bit too loud for me.
Hike a new trail? Yes please.
Learn to play the guitar. Yes and move over.
Join a cooking class? Mmm, you bet!
Bungee jumping? I think I’ll pass on this one.
I know I can find some of my adventure mates on Meetup.com.
I am always on the lookout for new ideas, adventures and ways to meet people. Are they looking for me too?
So, what adventures do you want to cross off your list?
Ok, so you crossed off the days on the calendar, had the party, celebrated and NOW you are retired. Its time to sleep in and enjoy checking items off your bucket list.
You’ve cleaned closets, garages and drawers.
You’ve packed your bags and sailed the seas, visited beaches and climbed mountains.
You’ve weeded and planted, hoed and harvested.
You’ve sliced, hooked and sandbagged.
You’ve visited family, reconnected with friends and made new acquaintances.
You’ve casted, caught and released.
You’ve cruised, snoozed and boozed.
Now you’ve got 25+ years to go!
Having a strategy on how to spend your next 25 years is pretty important and often overlooked. Yes, you love to golf but to do so everyday for the rest of your life? Perhaps? Or maybe not too realistic.
Doing the same thing day after day, not only becomes more like a job (with no pay or benefits) but it’s like taking every vacation back to visit the folks in Syracuse. Year after year. A thousand places to visit and year after year … back home to Syracuse. It will get old really fast.
But, as a newly retired person you have a blank slate. Unless you start to add things to your canvas, others will do it for you. Look around right now and figure out who you want to spend your time with, what organizations you want to get involved with and investigate places where you want to visit.
As you create this list, as you research your topics, as you reach out and learn more – explain to others what you are doing and why. This is your first step in making new friends. The information you are seeking already exists … you just need to ask the question.
Creating your very own ‘Fun Stuff’ list will benefit you even on down days (yes, sorry to say, you will have down days) and keep you active, interesting and engaging. Finding the things that make you feel grounded will vary from person to person but they are the essence of our being. I know I’m sounding overly dramatic but just take a minute and think about it.
ACTION ITEM: Make a list of the things that make you smile. The list below is unique to me. What will be on your list? (My list spell out RETIRE!)
Read Exercise Travel Invest in yourself! Routine Education
Of course I’d list this one first – it’s my GO-TO hobby. I love visiting book stores, libraries, attending speaker series, and author presentations. I get a new look at the world through books. I have my own set of favorite authors and whether I read a book, listen on a cd or download to my smart phone, the act of ingesting someone’s words is a true gift.
One huge aspect of reading for me is visiting libraries. Libraries are unique and have their own personality. Some libraries are nondescript, bland, boring and easily forgotten. Other libraries are landmark buildings with glass ceilings and stand tall and proud. I just read one great blog post from The Library Lady Travels about a series of churches in Canada that were converted into libraries as a way to save the historical building and house books. I really want to visit those buildings! For all the libraries in between, they have their own sweet character that usually invites me to return.
Without exercise and a healthy body there really is no happy retirement, right? Without exercise there will be no walking, hiking, tennis, or golfing. A regular exercise routine is something to be scheduled and on the calendar. This routine can offer so much besides a happy body.
Reports and studies show that walking is the perfect exercise. I love walking but not running. I stopped running the day I realized I could walk faster than my ‘run.’ The secret to an exercise routine is that you do it, love it and embrace it. I was never going to embrace running but walking … oh yeah!
What is it that you love to do? When you are creating your list, remember to factor in strength training. As we age, our muscles lose mass. In other words, they are slowly dying. They need to be challenged, engaged and tested. Strength training is not specific to a gym either. You can get stronger without lifting weights.
It might take you a whole 5 minutes searching to find youtube.com videos of strength training without equipment routines. Once you find a few, bookmark them and try them all. Lunges, squats, push-ups, planks and resistance bands will cause you to sweat, stretch beyond your limits and be open for new opportunities. Pick bits and pieces from routines and create your own plan. Once you figure out what exercise you love, put it on your calendar!
Do not believe the studies that tell you “Only 20 minutes of walking a day is needed.” Phooey. Move it or lose it is my motto!
I believe that travel is a huge factor in my retirement happiness. The freedom to make plans that are months away or spur-of-the-moment make a big difference in my mental well-being. Before, I used to dream about building up vacation days so I could get out of town. I had to pass on those dream flights that popped at Wednesday at 2 am and would promise to whisk you to an amazing destination if you were packed and ready to board within 24 hours. Those flights are what blockbuster movies are all about.
So, here I am with time and a vehicle and all it will take is for me to schedule something on my calendar as a way to make it happen. Take a trip to Sedona on Tuesday. OK. Visit hot springs next month. Take a Napa Valley Wine Tour in September? Booked and on the calendar.
Invest in yourself!
This tip relates back to all the things you said you wanted to do. Learn to dance, play guitar, weave, sing, golf, cook, or whatever you promised you would do when you retire. Perhaps you are wanting to write a book, start a podcast, climb a mountain, learn a language or build a house. Investing in yourself includes giving away your time too. Finding a cause that resonates with your core values will be the way to start. Want to work with children, build houses, visit the sick, distribute food, hoe gardens, collect trash? There are organizations waiting for you to call. Most often, in order to invest in yourself it takes a bit of planning.
ACTION ITEM: Take a look at your bucket list and circle three things that you have to work hard to achieve. Want to learn to speak Spanish? Check out local community colleges or recreation centers for classes. Or go online and search for “free language app” or perhaps visit your local library.
What are those things that you dreamed about prior to retirement? Pick the top three and create a list of the steps you need to take to achieve them.
Then take one step.
Then tomorrow take another. Simple, easy and most important, you’ve put your dreams in motion. Congratulations!
OK, readers, this one is HUGE! I know, I know. For the past 30 years you have been on a schedule and now it’s time to go rogue. Or, maybe not.
Having a routine is powerful in so many ways. A set wake-up time or a scheduled daily exercise program is needed to keep moving forward. Without some sort of routine, days slip by and you’ll often ask yourself “what day is it?” At first it’s funny, then it is just frustrating. Those mindless days turn into years then into decades. Own your life again. Start now.
A routine holds you accountable to yourself. Knowing you are expected to be at the gym at 7 am gets you up and out the door. Perhaps 7am is your journaling time? Then put something on the calendar and stick with it. Not only will you find other like- minded individuals who show up when you do, you might find out you have lots in common.
Once you figure out what it is you want to learn, get online and find out more. Want to spend time learning college level material? Go to iTunes University. You will be amazed what is offered. Or go to your internet browser and search for Open Educational Resources (OER). These are free and open sources materials with a focus on getting college level material into the hands of students without the high price tag. Another place to continue online learning is via Youtube University, Coursera and TED talks, Tedx and TEDEd
Some communities offer classes through Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. This foundation supports a national lifelong learning network for seasoned adults and operates on 124 campuses across the nation.
Download a podcast app and listen to almost any topic that interests you. (Go back to your bucket list for inspiration.) Find the search icon and type in your subject. You will be amazed at the variety and selection of speakers you can subscribe and listen to on a regular basis.
This is the time in your life to really stretch your imagination and do something amazing. Want to learn astronomy? Astrology? Astrophysics? Then check online courses, podcasts, books, community colleges, local universities and start asking HOW to make it happen. Just remember to get it on your calendar.
And, just for the record – I want you to kick back and be lazy. I think you earned it and nobody should take that away from you. Let the sun shine on your face, smell the flowers, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy that ice cold beverage. And then … make a plan. (smile)
I took a trip back in time and something really wonderful happened… autumn colors!
I went back ‘home’ to upstate NY and to visit friends in the Adirondacks and I happened to be there when the colors were at PEAK. Can you say LOTTERY WINNER? Because that was how I felt. Around every bend were gifts – bouquets of red maples, brown oaks, orange elms, and gold birch leaves danced to their own lovely tune. It was temporary. Autumn hugged me like an old friend and the embrace reminded me of all I had missed.
My awe continued as the view got even better – from the seat of a kayak. The reflection of the colors from the water made my heart skip and smile. Somehow, I happened onto the colors. They were waiting for me to arrive, I just know it. Everything synced up – just for me.
Going back … home is all about stories. Taking a drive to a long-ago camp (small cabin in the woods) my sisters reminisced about the good times they spent there. When I chimed in the conversation it was to say how much I didn’t like the place. I didn’t like the location, the damp and cold building with no running water and an outhouse. Nothing was nearby – except more woods, trees and little sunshine. And most of all, I didn’t like mice and the camp was filled with them. I was fifteen years old and had better places to be. The camp improved over the years and as running water, electricity and a toilet were added, I was more inclined to go but I was also older and moving on with my life. The camp was a touchstone for them and for me it was just a place in time… long ago.
For as much as I loved being on vacation and going back in time, eating haddock fish sandwiches, attending reunions and weddings, visiting family, picking apples, buying sausage pizza and munching on the most delicious Italian bread everywhere – I also looked forward to returning home to my routine. To freshly-made kale smoothies, exercise, mountain views, friends, family and healthy eating.
For as much as I love to travel, I mostly enjoy returning home.
My friend Sara and I took a walk last week to get caught up in person. No texts, no phone calls just a walk and talk. Like we used to do. She is almost ready to retire. In fact, she can retire right now but she hesitates because if she does, she will be stuck at home with her husband.
The man she chose to marry is not very nice. When she does something forgetful, he pounces on that and just rants and raves about what a loser she is. During our walk, she told me that in the past month she mindlessly clicked something on her computer and it was compromised. She took it to a computer tech and had to get it wiped and cleaned. She felt so stupid. Her husband won’t let her forget that she screwed up again. He demeans her and takes away any confidence she has in herself.
Sara is one of the first friends I made when I moved to Colorado. She and I have been though births, deaths, divorces and remarriages. When she told me that Eddie proposed and she planned to marry him, I asked her why?
I realized during our walk that she didn’t intend to take any action, she just needed to talk through what was going on, to list offences, to explain retirement possibilities and to unload. Once I understood my role, I was able to shake my head when needed, offer condolences and some levity here and there.
I know of others like her who would retire tomorrow if they could change their home life. One amazing friend of mine worked to the age of 68 so that she could avoid being home with her unemployed husband. When she finally did retire, it was because she was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Ok, this is the part where I let my naiveté show. Why not stand up and say no? No more abuse? No more put downs? No more hostility? These women and many others are actually the breadwinners and yet, they allow themselves to be pushed around at home – whereas in the workplace they are given the respect due the position.
Do I have to walk in Sara’s shoes and take the verbal abuse in order to speak honestly to her? And if I were in her shoes, would I have the strength, determination and financial means to walk away? And could I walk away … from yet another marriage?
My marriage had none of the negativity and toxic environment that she is exposed to on a daily basis. In the past, I would speak freely about what she could do, and suggest steps and actions she could to help her move away, or forward depending on what she needed. I send her links to podcasts, youtube video suggestions and books that would help with self esteem, financial information and know-how.
So, this time when she shared her world with me, I understood that she only needed to vent. She wasn’t ready to act and maybe she would never be ready. I decided to be a good listener and give her the safe place to speak freely.
Is that all she needs?
My heart is heavy because I am so happy in retirement. I am hiking, taking drives to see the beautiful autumn colors, taking daily walks, visiting libraries, reading, making friends, traveling and enjoying my space.
What are your thoughts about this? Know people like Sara? Any words of wisdom for her or me?
I read this poem in a book yesterday and it made me pause and reread it. After several readings I decided to post it and share it here. What is so compelling about this poem?
Looking back, I can remember the gentle silences and the awareness that all was well. The feeling that life was good and feeling sorry for anyone who was not us. Such sweet words.
A Third Body
A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not-talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know, someone we know of, whom we have never seen. –Robert Bly