Six Months In – Part 2

I’ll just jump right back into the thought process here that I began with my previous posting.


When I imagined my life in retirement there’s no way I could have known that the context for that would be the worst financial crisis of my lifetime.  That’s had levels of impact on pretty much everyone’s lives and one of the things it’s meant in our home – and in many homes – is that David is working much harder these days with less office support.  I have been pretty much beginning and ending my days alone;  I get a coffee and good morning from David before he heads to work around 6:30, and at night – once we’ve had dinner and he’s finished the work he’s brought home  – well, by then he’s exhausted and ready for dreamland.  

Seems that most days I’m mostly pretty much on my own as well.  Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a bit of a loner anyhow.  But this is starting to feel like too much time alone and not enough time for meaningful interaction with others.  My new friends – so far – are mostly on TV; how pathetic is that!  Even knowing that this is a temporary state … that a few months from now the seeds I’ve been planting will start to grow and life will seem different (I hope) … doesn’t make the heaviness in my soul any lighter I fear.  I read this on the web: “Retirement means an adjustment in your mindset. After you retire, you may experience anxiety and depression . You suddenly have all this free time with no committments – but does that make you happy, or anxious?  Oddly enough, all our working years, we wish for freedom. We can’t wait to be wild, happy and free in retirement.Then comes the day we walk out the proverbial retirement door — and what do we DO with the rest of our life?”  I was really delighted when I read the very next paragraph:  “Recognize these anxious feelings are normal… suddenly, nothing is the same. But that’s ok as you transition into your New Self, the Retired Person who is HAPPY with a New Life!”   This is definitely the stuff of Lesson #3:  Acknowledge what makes you uncomfortable, then put it into the background and focus on what makes you happy.  Do you see the darkness or the moonlight on the field?  Or both?  It’s all one.  This one continues to be a struggle for me.

It’s always a good time to remember Lesson #11:  Remember how easy it was as a child to make a new friend, and make as many as you can; they’ll enrich your life in amazing ways.  The good weather has returned and it’s time to get out and about and among folks and with people – meaningfully – again.

BOREDOM … BUT NOT REALLY:    Now this is a bit tricky.  As Syd’s sister-in-law  points out in Retirement: A Full Time Job:   “boredomWell, I guess it’s not boredom I’m really afraid of – it’s laziness.”  She’s worried that without deadlines and the structure and demands of a job, she might just sit around all day and do nothing.”  I will confess – far too many days I’ve felt like I’ve done just that … nothing.  I have played a gazillion (that’s a new number now, right?) games of Solitaire and Sudoku.  I’ve done a lot of cleaning (not enough) and cooking (enough).  But somehow I’m feeling uncomfortable, like I’m what they used to call “letting myself go” which is evident on days I’m in PJs until mid-afternoon.  I feel a bit squirmy sometimes like I’m just not contributing enough.  

David and I have been really enjoying watching 30 Rock episodes, and the one we most recently watched (Season 3, Episode 18:  Jackie Jomp-Jomp; I tried to load it for you here but unfortunately all of the sites that seem to have it are blocked to folks living outside the US … if you do live in the US you can try clicking here and it might work – < >   To summarize:  Liz is on a short-term suspension from her job and  finds herself lost without the stress of her work.  Watching Tina Fey navigate her way from the life of working woman to the life of a retired woman … well, I couldn’t possibly tell the story any more clearly than she does.  

This show presents me with what I am, in the end, most afraid of.  The easy possibility of life become one indulgence after another, one long day seeking out activity after activity just to fill the time, trying to find meaning in nothing at all.  Nothing – at least – that means anything/enough to me.  This is the nightmare; it sometimes just flashes (Chuck style .. if you watch that show; told you my life was quite steeped in TV) and sometimes keeps me awake at night.

I definitely need to start building routines again; carefully, and with lots of space on the schedule for dreaming.

Which brings me to …

MAKING DECISIONS:  I’m starting … but little by little and with care.  Clearly when I have the freedom to choose what I’m doing at most times of the day there’s no excuse for being anything but at peace with my life.  I’ve been trying out different things (like watching a lot of TV) and now it’s time to start making some choices about what I really want to do be doing each day, remembering Lesson #8:  Carefully choose what you want to leave behind and what you want to keep – based on passions and personal goals; make sure what’s kept is manageable.

AGING AND OTHER HARD REALITIES:  Yes.  I am aging.  That is hard. aging What more is there to say?  I am grateful that so far I’m not dealing with anything life-threatening or tremendously life-limiting.  I do forget more than I used to; but even so I think this is a good place to remember Lesson #9:  As I think about, and make decisions, don’t forget to ask the critical question … “Does this matter?  So it seems unlikely that I’ll ever run a 10KM race again, but does that matter?  I can still trek in the snows of Antarctica and the trails of the Rocky Mountains.   I’m never going to be truly svelte again and I do have to accept that I’m shorter than I used to be; does it matter?  


For years I had to work with a notion of assessment that always seemed to me to be quite lacking.  It’s defined (at least in Ontario educational circles) as “the process of gathering information from a variety of sources that accurately reflect how well a student is achieving the curriculum expectations of a course.  As part of assessment, teachers provide students with descriptive feedback that guides their efforts towards improvement“.  So, rather than totally turn my back on this, let’s see if I can actually apply the process here.  I have been gathering lots of information from a variety of sources (reading, observing, thinking, meditating, walking, dancing, dreaming, writing) for sure.  The comments that you submit – your voices of experience and wisdom and good humour and  kind encouragement – they provide feedback that helps me to hone my focus.  That’s the process part.  

Then there’s the judgement part;  the evaluation.  report-cardHere’s where the quality of work is “judged on the basis of assigned criteria and then given a percentage grade that reflects the value assigned to the work“; all based, of course, on provincial criteria and achievement levels.  Oh oh –  no no no – not going to happen here.    First, there are those assigned criteria that I think are worth shunning, as noted in my own initial lesson #5 – There’s no quicker way to disappointment than having expectations; those expectations will get you every time .  However, with the benefit of more thinking since I first drafted that lesson I’d like to update it:  Lesson #5 v 2 – There’s no quicker way to disappointment – in experience and result – than being tied to inflexible expectations; they’ll limit your experience and joy every time.   I have been choosing, and hope to continue to choose, to let the criteria evolve as my understanding of this new part of my life deepens.

Critical for me – I think – is to avoid the result (in life as well as in education) of long lists of expectations that must be reached which, I believe, is a kind of ossification (the process of becoming set and inflexible in behavior, attitudes, and actions) worth avoiding as, to me, it’s synonymous with a kind of death.

 So – with no judgement insinuated – I think I’m doing alright.  

Not great; this is harder than I’d thought.  

There are also many days of pure joy.

It’s more confusing and the redefinition of identity (or just the gradual transformation) is more daunting than I’d anticipated.  

I’m glad that I have this space to think hands-within-hands

out loud, and I’m so thankful for the support of your comments as I work my way through this.

Now – on the the second half of the first year of my retired life.


6 responses to “Six Months In – Part 2

  1. Keep-a-going, woman! You’ll get the hang of it. Cut yourself some slack and smile, smile, smile!

    I enjoy reading your posts and thank you for allowing us readers a peek into your thoughts during this period of transition.

    I’m cheering you on.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      I can’t even begin to tell you how much that encouragement means to me. When I first took up running about 10 years ago and ran in my first “race” (not really so much about racing against time for me as just making it to the finish line) I was really struck by what it was like to have people cheering you on and I thought that life would be so much better if we all had the feeling that somewhere somebody was out there cheering for us. Thanks for being there for me.

  2. Sylvia:

    That’s so funny that you mentioned “thinking out loud” in your post. Just yesterday (before reading this post), I was thinking that I may be about done thinking out loud about retirement.

    I totally identify with all your transition thoughts and the various adjustments to retirement, who you are, and who you want to be.

    The strange thing that’s happened to me over the last several weeks is that I don’t think about this stuff anymore, and so am having real trouble “thinking out loud” about it on my blog now.

    It seems that something happened after I wrote posts summarizing my first year of retirement. I think that chapter has closed and now I’m just living, not transitioning. And it feels like it happened all of a sudden. I don’t feel like I’m retired anymore, I just feel like I’m living–not really defined by that “retired” label anymore.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going here with this comment, I just wanted to say something about this out loud and thought you might appreciate the preview of things to come . . .


    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Thank you so much – as always – for your thoughts Syd. As long as this feels like a transitional period I’m able to keep writing. I am delighted to hear that there will be a less meta-cognitive time in this as well when I’ll just be able to enjoy my new life and live it. I’m guessing that I’ve got some months of adaptation still ahead and by the beginning of the next school year – once a teacher always a teacher – I’ll be in the home stretch. Here’s hoping!

  3. Sylvia Bereskin

    Hi Sylvia
    Barbara here – on your computer!

    I hope writing will help me sort out my responses to this heart-felt entry. For me it raises the question of the source of the blues you are feeling. One possible answer is that this may be a step in “resistance to change.” I think the normal reactions/stages are denial that there will be a change, “bargaining” to reduce the impact, anger and depression, finally acceptance. Perhaps you can see elements of all these stages in your first six months.

    My second thought is that the transition is a difficult one because we are moving out of the time when society views our work and our life as important. When we talk about what contribution we are going to make next, we are making plans to continue with the life we just left (perhaps with easier or more comfortable goals and schedules). But this time may have given you and us, your readers, a taste of the real “retirement” – the time when we move from doing something or being someone that society really cares about to the person that society considers a burden. How to do this gracefully? Fortunately, we aren’t at that stage yet – but it does give us some time to reflect before that inevitable change.

  4. Wonderful post. Although I’m not one for book recommendations in generaly, I encourage reading of “How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free by Ernie Zelinski.

    I regularly preach to the choir. The best way to have a sucessful retirement is to have interests and friends outside of work during your regular worklife. The financial disadvantages I had of the part time job, the “mommy track job” and the at home spouse job (with and without kids) has made my adjust ment easier than others, and I still have bad days.

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