Do you ever have one of those mornings when you just don’t want to get out of bed? For whatever reason staying tucked under those warm blankets just sounds better than any other option. There is nothing you must do – the calendar is clean. And if you are lucky enough to be retired you are free to stay right you are for as long as you choose. That is one of the great things about retirement – you get to do what you want when you want.
One of the not so great things is finding yourself in the situation where you can’t think of a good reason to get up. There is nothing that lights your fire enough to inspire you to exit your bed. Whether bored or unchallenged or maybe a little down in the mouth, some of those retired days you worked so long and hard to achieve can be a bit blah.
It’s not that every day in retirement should be action packed filled with excitement. A little downtime is an important part of the mix. But finding meaning in your day, experiencing new things and making the most of your second act requires more than sitting back and watching the world go by.
Most retirees experience the mixed blessing of no longer having to go to work. I say “mixed” because there are two aspects. The first is you no longer have to deal with the stress and worry of maintaining a job. On the other hand you may find yourself disconnected from people and surroundings that have been such a big part of your life their absence leaves an emptiness. Who will you share life experiences with now that you no longer have co-workers in your day? What will you do to fill your day? How will you avoid the curse of boredom that often dogs retired folks? Since most of us can hope to enjoy retirement for 20 or more years, answers to these questions is pretty important.
I have learned the secret to a happy retirement is often found in the little things. Experiencing meaning and joy do not require some momentous event. Each of us can hope to live a worthwhile retirement. Here are a few areas to look for inspiration.
Getting a task done
Whether I am pruning the roses or painting the garage, vacuuming the house or getting in a hike that inches me nearer my goal of 10,000 steps a day, completing the task in front of me gives a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. It probably has to do with setting goals throughout my career. Without a goal how do you know where you are going? Now I take pleasure in completing the little projects that come along. Best of all I get to decide what those projects will be.
Witnessing the incredible strength of others
Last week I went in for my annual checkup. While waiting my turn a myriad of people made their way to the counter to check in. Some were older, moving slowly often with the support of a loved one at their side. Others were not so old. The common factor was no one appeared over joyed to be here. I could not help but wonder about each individual – what was their story? Were they here to see the doctor to learn of lab results, anxiously hoping for the best? Were they taking the first steps in what would be a long course of painful treatments aimed to make them better? Few if any knew exactly what to expect, no doubt scared of the unknown.
Yet despite their trepidation and uncertainty all tried to maintain a positive front. Whether a smile from the scarfed woman hiding wispy remains of lost hair or the sarcastic comment from a hunched elderly man as he slowly negotiated his way into an empty chair, each tried to rise above the situation. Loved ones supported those who could not manage for themselves doing whatever small thing they could to make it easier. The strength each demonstrates always chokes me up a little. And it helps me put my own issues in perspective.
Being part of a small town community
I grew up in Stockton California which back then was a pretty small place. From college on through my career I was part of the Bay Area masses aka traffic, tons of people, lines, waiting and always rush, rush, rush. Of course there were pluses like diverse nightlife options, massive shopping malls with every store imaginable and lots of restaurants to frequent. But ever since we made our move to a 4400 person community I realize how much energy and inspiration the small town offers. I love going into a local shop and being recognized by the owner, often greeted by name. I love the slower pace that life takes – what’s the hurry? I love the friendly locals who wave to you from their car when passing or say a genuine “howdy” when passing you on the street. And should I feel the need for a little faster pace I can drive fifteen minutes to get all I need. I realize that being part of a community is something I missed living the fast paced life of the Bay Area. Now retired I am able to enjoy the smaller world I am happily a part of.
The games people play
My parents have been life-long bridge players a passion that enabled them to meet similar minded folks when they first arrived in the home where they have lived since I was seven. Their calendar is littered with bridge lunches and dinners. It gets them out of the house, keeps their minds sharp and they are darned good at it! My wife is an incredible jigsaw puzzler. Anything less than 2000 pieces does not stand a chance once she puts her mind to it. The end results are truly amazing and she loves progressing through each completion. We were recently introduced to dominos which has worked its way into the evening rotation alongside backgammon and gin rummy. A little competition is a good thing. It keeps us engaged and striving to do better. And I realize at my ripe old age that it is not just about winning but about playing the game. What fun!
A little this, a little that
Since I am retired my schedule can be flexible. I don’t even need a schedule if I don’t want. I have the luxury to move freely between interests, spending as much or as little time as I want on each. I stick with it until something else interests me more then move on. What some might consider erratic is ideal for me. Read a little, walk a bit, exercise some, clean a tad, write awhile, play a few songs on the piano, putter in the garden, nap as necessary, stir and repeat. The freedom to do what I want when I want for as long as I want makes retirement life click for me.
It is easy to become bored at times. That is okay as long as we do not linger. If we focus on the many inspirational people and places and things we should be able to move beyond any temporary boredom. Inspiration is often found in our own backyard.