Sunday, August 7, 2016

Retirement Comes In Stages

All my adult work-life I planned what I would do in retirement. There would be an office celebration, relief from the dental hygienist rat-race, and bucket-lists to fulfill. I was looking forward to going places and doing things I missed while working and raising my daughter.

My introduction to retirement didn't go as I'd dreamed. I had knee replacement surgery. The lengthy recovery became my unexpected exit door. There was no work celebration.

But my home life soon took over. I spent hours doing things with both my elderly brother and my long-time partner. Doctor visits, shopping, and visiting. I traveled easily for my SCA hobby because John was my in home dog-sitter. I was honored to be welcomed into the Order of the Laurel, the highest honor given for the arts in the SCA. I enjoyed life as it happened and barely noticed retirement. I found my purpose.  

Until life changed again with their passing. After spending time putting one foot in front of the other I realized I was filled with ennui, boredom, disillusionment and restlessness. Things had to change for my golden years to be golden again. Because I retired several years ago, I didn't know, this was a common retirement stage, not grief. 

Back in 1935 when the retirement age was set by the government at 65, it was rare people lived to that age. Today, living to be 100 is becoming common. Sitting around 30 years is motivating for me in itself and longevity provides opportunity. Realizing if I didn't take action this is all there would be, I determined to recreate my life's purpose. To find productivity and a new routine. If I didn't act this disillusionment would last years. What could I do to recover my retirement dream?

First, I took stock of my situation. My options, wants and needs. I wanted a challenge, mental stimulation, structure, and purpose. But bucket lists don't inspire me because I have done much along the way. I've traveled and lived around the world. I have fulfilling hobbies and my two crazy dogs. How can I find a new life's passion? 

I googled the web for answers but didn't find much help, not even on the dedicated “senior” websites. However, in one search, I stumbled across Robert Atchley’s research on retirement stages

I decided to aim for reorientation and design a retirement happy-place life. But without work or close family I had to find human connection.

Retirement is reinventing and exploring, but I held myself back with excuses. Cost mainly, because travel now involved paying a dog-sitter. But, the thing I missed most was connecting with people.

Scary as the thought was, I decided to regularly teach my art for social interaction, not for the craft itself. It's a new beginning causing me to see life through a different lens. And, I'm making new connections outside my SCA world. I even found my Tai Chi instructor is an artist who took and enjoyed my class among my SCA friends.

Strangely enough, I have another dog. John's daughter moved into an apartment and her 13-year-old dog is now mine. It is a win-win situation. While he lives with me and my two dogs, she visits him regularly after work and we visit. She will also be my dog-sitter when I travel.

I am pumped! I feel like I'm on my way to creating a rewarding retirement again. I serve and interact with my calligraphy and illumination students and can travel economically again. I hope this stage is lengthy, with time to enjoy hobbies, travel, my daughter and her kids. I also look forward to more discoveries and change.

My goal is to keep stage six at bay as long as possible. The termination of retirement, when I am so feeble and frail I can’t do any fun stuff anymore. When I am truly in God's Waiting Room (outside of Florida). I plan and work for that to be a long way off. Until then, I’m enjoying life retired.