The day is under way as I gaze through the kitchen window at a darkening sky while enjoying my freshly brewed Cappuccino. Rumor has it we may actually be in for some rain – woo hoo! In our drought stricken California any and all precipitation is welcome. We are in year five and more than ready for a change. As we await the promise of El Nino (or threat depending on where you live), chances are in the next few weeks we will go from no rain at all to pounding downpours. In preparation locals anxiously fill sand bags from huge piles of sand located in front of fire stations and empty lots. We will see how it all shakes out as we deal with the on again off again whims of Mother Nature.
Logging to Yahoo Finance I discover the stock market is down 450 points at this early point in the day, the biggest drop for the first day of a new year since the exchange began back in 1932. Things have been a bit unstable over the past year but I doubt anyone expected such a dramatic welcome to 2016. Still I would not be surprised to find things balancing out a bit by the end of the day. The financial market is schizophrenic to say the least. What goes down must eventually come up we hope.
Like so many facets of life, living in retirement can have its ups and downs. One day finds you excited to jump out of bed and tackle the world head on. You feel energized and optimistic and plain lucky to be alive. The next day may find you in a totally different state of mind. Perhaps cold weather makes it undesirable to exit warm covers. Maybe there is nothing you have to do and so you just stay in bed. And sometimes you just feel you cannot deal with what the day portends and choose to remain where it is safe.
Retirement can be a wonderful time to explore new interests, a time to figure out what really matters to you deep down and pursue it. You are no longer restricted by the demands of the working world. You alone manage your calendar and what it contains. You choose the people you hang out with. What a perfect time to get to know your creative side. What an opportunity to step outside the comfort zone you have lived within all your life, a chance to try new things and face new challenges.
On flip side in retirement you assume responsibility for entertaining yourself and finding personal fulfillment. It is all up to you. When I first retired I missed having goals to strive for. I was used to spending my day focused on doing whatever it took to get me to my end of the month targets. Now retired, no one was telling me what I needed to achieve. It was a bit disconcerting and for a time I felt lost.
Before long I realized if I valued having goals to pursue it was up to me to set them. I started by setting a series of weekly fitness goals, nothing too extreme but something to work toward. Ride the stationary bike two times a week, life weights two times a week, and do yoga two times a week. My wife and I do not typically make resolutions for the New Year – we try to keep it together throughout the year. But this year we added a goal to walk 20 miles per week. It is a great way to explore the neighborhood, enjoy the Pacific Coast hikes and spend time together doing something we both love. I have other goals in the areas of learning new piano pieces, practicing French, and figuring out what vegetables will grow best in our soon-to-be new garden.
As long as you are physically and financially able, the early years of retirement can be enjoyed to the maximum. You are healthy, you have time, and you are excited to explore the new freedom from work. It is time to travel, play, explore and enjoy. As you venture further in to your retirement aging becomes your constant companion. It can be a bit more challenging to do those little things you previously took for granted. Your tolerance can begin to diminish impacting plans to travel or venture outside of what you are comfortable with. Some things you used to love just require too much effort. If you let it overwhelm, you might find yourself withdrawing from life.
Fortunately we do not have to look too hard to find inspirational examples of older folks still living a full and meaningful life. My folks have slowed down but are still social animals getting out regularly throughout the week to play bridge and dine with friends. My aunt still travels the world walking miles of local streets to become immersed in local sites and tastes. Our Swiss family has a commitment to outdoor life that keeps them hiking mountains into their eighties. It can be done. I think the trick is to realize nothing is perfect and try to accept limitations rather than be controlled by them.
Retirement will have its ups and downs, that is a given. How we choose to cope is up to us. None of us had an easy time getting all the way to retirement. We learned to fight and scrape and not take no for an answer. A little of that spunk – or vim and vigor as my mom says – can help us over the rough spots as we navigate our retirement. It’s that old positive attitude coming to our rescue if we encourage it, if we let it, and if we incorporate it in each day.
Happy New Year!