On the fourth of July in 2015, I celebrated my independence from work and career and entered the uncharted waters of retirement. It has been a fun and interesting 20 months.
Regular readers of my blog know that I have spent several of those months traveling and volunteering around the world. Travel has been a passion since I was a teenager and being able to volunteer in foreign communities has enriched and deepened my travel experiences. But what about retirement at home? How does one feel fulfilled in our own communities? In other words, how do we stay engaged and not grow old and disinterested?
Many retirees volunteer with local organizations. I chose to work with the Womens Center of Montgomery County. After a comprehensive training program I now spend one day a week at our county court house. There I am able to help victims of domestic violence navigate the courts to obtain protection orders. It is often sad and upsetting work, but it is essential.
During my down time between trips I kept a running list of things to do. All of those projects that would be fun to do if we only had the time. In the golden and free flowing days of retirement there is an abundance of time. I plunged into the first project with joy – turning my son’s old bedroom into a meditation and yoga retreat. I have enough skill at a sewing machine to sew straight lines and that is about it. But that means curtains and pillows are an easy task. And in an out-of-the-way yoga room I could go a little crazy with the fabric choices. The yoga room was followed by a garage redo, cushions for the patio set, a bench refinish, closet organizations, and the list goes on. My days were also filled with workouts, nature walks, socializing, and writing.
So why, after my return from Thailand could I not seem to kick start my at-home life again? After I returned in early February it took almost two weeks for the jetlag to subside. There is a twelve hour time difference, and the travel time was 23 hours. And let’s face it – I am no spring chicken. But long after the jetlag was a memory I was still feeling at loose ends. By noon most days I had accomplished little more than getting dressed and eating breakfast. What to do? During my working and parenting years, I lived by my calendar. Why not live my retirement that way too? I can hear you moaning….isn’t retirement about leaving the calendar behind? Ugh, who wants to be chained to a calendar? For many people that is true. But for this type A with a neurotic need to feel a sense of accomplishment….it was just what the doctor ordered.
The first item I put on my calendar was just a daily note that reads “Get up and do something!” And it worked! Day One – I phoned my former personal trainer (which I’ve been promising myself for 6 months) and got on her schedule. Since then I have come up with a couple of project ideas and put soft deadlines on my calendar. I rarely say no to a lunch or dinner outing. I am back to my workout and yoga routines and they are in my eCalendar, which beeps at me incessantly when it’s time. And, I wrote the first page of the book I have been so afraid to start. I can now cross off the calendar reminder that tells me to “write the first page.” What a sense of accomplishment (smile). My calendar is lightly filled with enough “appointments” to keep me relatively occupied and feeling useful until I head off for the next adventure in May.
This retirement prescription may not appeal to all the newly retired. Probably most of you love the unscheduled nature of retirement. But if you recognize a little of yourself in my story, by all means, open that calendar and fill it up.